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NSF, NIH award Ecology of Infectious Disease grants

Unprecedented changes in biodiversity have coincided with the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases around the world.

To address this problem, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have announced $16 million in funding for eight projects under the Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID) program, a multi-year, joint-agency effort now in its ninth year of funding.

"In a time of rapid global change, the one certainty is that emerging infectious diseases will be more common," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences. "These new EID research awards will support the basic studies needed to predict the timing and severity of the emergence and spread of these diseases."

NSF's contribution to the EID program is from its Directorates for Biological Sciences; Geosciences; and Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences.

Interdisciplinary projects funded through the EID program will study how large-scale environmental events -- such as climate change, habitat destruction, biological invasions, pollution and a variety of interventions -- alter the risks of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases in humans and animals.

"Ecological studies of infectious diseases are beginning to move from basic science to translational research," said Joshua Rosenthal, EID program director at NIH's Fogarty International Center. "The results will help us to better manage these diseases."

The studies will contribute knowledge and analytical tools that will help public-health officials, wildlife managers, farmers and others to control the spread of diseases among humans, domestic and wild animals, and crops, say EID scientists.

This year's awards support research on:

  • Bacterial pathogens and human infectious diseases in an estuary subjected to extreme climatic events (Rachel Noble, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill);

  • Virulence trade-offs in a vertebrate virus--infectious haematopoietic necrosis (IHN)--a disease of salmon and trout (Benjamin Kerr, University of Washington);

  • Agricultural antibiotics and human health, using a multi-scale ecological approach to the development and spread of antibiotic resistance (Joseph Eisenberg, University of Michigan);

  • Environmental determinants favorable for the presence and transmission of vibrios, bacteria typically found in saltwater and important human pathogens (Crystal Johnson, University of Southern Mississippi);

  • Eco-epidemiology of West Nile virus emergence in urban areas (Tony Goldberg, University of Wisconsin at Madison);

  • "Immune landscapes" of human influenza in households, towns and cities of southern China (Derek Cummings, Johns Hopkins University);

  • Ecology, emergence and pandemic potential of Nipah virus, a virus harbored in fruit bats, in Bangladesh (Peter Daszak, Center for Conservation Medicine);

  • Ecology of anaplasmosis, a tick-borne disease in cattle, and the relationship of disease reservoirs, risk and incidence (Felicia Keesing, Bard College).

The coincidence of broad-scale environmental changes and the emergence of infectious diseases points to underlying and predictable ecological relationships, said Rosenthal.

"The EID program links these components to produce a comprehensive understanding of disease transmission," he said.

Potential benefits of the EID program include development of more advanced disease transmission theory; improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects; increased capacity to forecast outbreaks; and better comprehension of how diseases emerge and re-emerge.


Contact: Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation

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NSF, NIH award Ecology of Infectious Disease grants
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