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Title: Predictors of zoonotic potential in helminths
Helminths are parasites that cause disease at considerable cost to public health and present a risk for emergence as novel human infections. Although recent research has elucidated characteristics conferring a propensity to emergence in other parasite groups (e.g. viruses), the understanding of factors associated with zoonotic potential in helminths remains poor. We applied an investigator-directed learning algorithm to a global dataset of mammal helminth traits to identify factors contributing to spillover of helminths from wild animal hosts into humans. We characterized parasite traits that distinguish between zoonotic and non-zoonotic species with 91% accuracy. Results suggest that helminth traits relating to transmission (e.g. definitive and intermediate hosts) and geography (e.g. distribution) are more important to discriminating zoonotic from non-zoonotic species than morphological or epidemiological traits. Whether or not a helminth causes infection in companion animals (cats and dogs) is the most important predictor of propensity to cause human infection. Finally, we identified helminth species with high modelled propensity to cause zoonosis (over 70%) that have not previously been considered to be of risk. This work highlights the importance of prioritizing studies on the transmission of helminths that infect pets and points to the risks incurred by close associations with these animals. more » This article is part of the theme issue ‘Infectious disease macroecology: parasite diversity and dynamics across the globe’. « less
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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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