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Title: Frequency‐dependent transmission of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans in eastern newts
Transmission is the fundamental process whereby pathogens infect their hosts and spread through populations, and can be characterized using mathematical functions. The functional form of transmission for emerging pathogens can determine pathogen impacts on host populations and can inform the efficacy of disease management strategies. By directly measuring transmission between infected and susceptible adult eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) in aquatic mesocosms, we identified the most plausible transmission function for the emerging amphibian fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). Although we considered a range of possible transmission functions, we found that Bsal transmission was best explained by pure frequency dependence. We observed that >90% of susceptible newts became infected within 17 days post-exposure to an infected newt across a range of host densities and initial infection prevalence treatments. Under these conditions, we estimated R_0 = 4.9 for Bsal in an eastern newt population. Our results suggest that Bsal has the capability of driving eastern newt populations to extinction and that managing host density may not be an effective management strategy. Intervention strategies that prevent Bsal introduction or increase host resistance or tolerance to infection may be more effective. Our results add to the growing empirical evidence that transmission of wildlife pathogens can saturate more » and be functionally frequency-dependent. « less
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Transboundary and Emerging Diseases
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Resistance and tolerance are unique host defence strategies that can limit the impacts of a pathogen on a host. However, for most wildlife–pathogen systems, there are still fundamental uncertainties regarding (a) how changes in resistance and tolerance can affect disease outcomes and (b) the mechanisms underlying resistance and tolerance in host populations.

    Here, we first compared observed patterns of resistance and tolerance and their effects on disease outcomes among salamander species that are susceptible to infection and mortality from the emerging fungal pathogenBatrachochytrium salamandrivorans(Bsal). We then tested whether two putative mechanisms that contribute to host resistance and tolerance, skin sloughing and skin lesion reduction, predicted reducedBsalgrowth rate or increased host survival during infection, respectively.

    We performed multi‐doseBsalchallenge experiments on four species of Salamandridae found throughout North America. We combined the laboratory experiments with dynamic models and sensitivity analysis to examine how changes in load‐dependent resistance and tolerance functions affectedBsal‐induced mortality risk. Finally, we used our disease model to test whether skin sloughing and lesion reduction predicted variability in infection outcomes not described byBsalinfection intensity.

    We found that resistance and tolerance differed significantly among salamander species, with the most susceptible species being both less resistance and less tolerant ofBsalinfection. Our dynamic model showedmore »that the relative influence of resistance versus tolerance on host survival was species‐dependent—increasing resistance was only more influential than increasing tolerance for the least tolerant species where changes in pathogen load had a threshold‐like effect on host survival. Testing two candidate mechanisms of resistance and tolerance, skin sloughing and lesion reduction, respectively, we found limited support that either of these processes were strong mechanisms of host defence.

    Our study contributes to a broader understanding of resistance and tolerance in host–pathogen systems by showing that differences in host tolerance can significantly affect whether changes in resistance or tolerance have larger effects on disease outcomes, highlighting the need for species and even population‐specific management approaches that target host defence strategies.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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  2. Reguera, Gemma (Ed.)
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  3. Abstract

    Emerging infectious diseases have caused population declines and biodiversity loss. The ability of pathogens to survive in the environment, independent of their host, can exacerbate disease impacts and increase the likelihood of species extinction. Control of pathogens with environmental stages remains a significant challenge for conservation and effective management strategies are urgently needed.

    We examined the effectiveness of managing environmental exposure to reduce the impacts of an emerging infectious disease of bats, white‐nose syndrome (WNS). We used a chemical disinfectant, chlorine dioxide (ClO2), to experimentally reducePseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungal pathogen causing WNS, in the environment. We combined laboratory experiments with 3 years of field trials at four abandoned mines to determine whether ClO2could effectively removeP. destructansfrom the environment, reduce host infection and limit population impacts.

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  5. Abstract

    Controlling persistent infectious disease in wildlife populations is an ongoing challenge for wildlife managers and conservationists worldwide, and chronic diseases in particular remain a pernicious problem.

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    We apply the model to compare efficacies across a suite of management actions following an epidemic, including test‐and‐remove, depopulation‐and‐reintroduction, range expansion, herd augmentation and density reduction.

    Our results suggest that test‐and‐remove, depopulation‐and‐reintroduction and range expansion could help persistently infected bighorn sheep herds recovery following an epidemic. By contrast, augmentation could lead to worse outcomes than those expected in the absence of management. Other management actions that improve host survival or reduce disease‐induced mortality are also likely to improve population size and persistence of chronically infected herds.

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