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  1. Mancinelli, Giorgio (Ed.)

    The human burden of environmentally transmitted infectious diseases can depend strongly on ecological factors, including the presence or absence of natural enemies. The marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis) is a novel invasive species that can tolerate a wide range of ecological conditions and colonize diverse habitats. Marbled crayfish first appeared in Madagascar in 2005 and quickly spread across the country, overlapping with the distribution of freshwater snails that serve as the intermediate host of schistosomiasis–a parasitic disease of poverty with human prevalence ranging up to 94% in Madagascar. It has been hypothesized that the marbled crayfish may serve as a predator of schistosome-competent snails in areas where native predators cannot and yet no systematic study to date has been conducted to estimate its predation rate on snails. Here, we experimentally assessed marbled crayfish consumption of uninfected and infected schistosome-competent snails (Biomphalaria glabrataandBulinus truncatus) across a range of temperatures, reflective of the habitat range of the marbled crayfish in Madagascar. We found that the relationship between crayfish consumption and temperature is unimodal with a peak at ~27.5°C. Per-capita consumption increased with body size and was not affected either by snail species or their infectious status. We detected a possible satiation effect, i.e., a small but significant reduction in per-capita consumption rate over the 72-hour duration of the predation experiment. Our results suggest that ecological parameters, such as temperature and crayfish weight, influence rates of consumption and, in turn, the potential impact of the marbled crayfish invasion on snail host populations.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 13, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 27, 2024
  3. Rinaldi, Gabriel (Ed.)
    CRISPR gene drives could revolutionize the control of infectious diseases by accelerating the spread of engineered traits that limit parasite transmission in wild populations. Gene drive technology in mollusks has received little attention despite the role of freshwater snails as hosts of parasitic flukes causing 200 million annual cases of schistosomiasis. A successful drive in snails must overcome self-fertilization, a common feature of host snails which could prevents a drive’s spread. Here we developed a novel population genetic model accounting for snails’ mixed mating and population dynamics, susceptibility to parasite infection regulated by multiple alleles, fitness differences between genotypes, and a range of drive characteristics. We integrated this model with an epidemiological model of schistosomiasis transmission to show that a snail population modification drive targeting immunity to infection can be hindered by a variety of biological and ecological factors; yet under a range of conditions, disease reduction achieved by chemotherapy treatment of the human population can be maintained with a drive. Alone a drive modifying snail immunity could achieve significant disease reduction in humans several years after release. These results indicate that gene drives, in coordination with existing public health measures, may become a useful tool to reduce schistosomiasis burden in selected transmission settings with effective CRISPR construct design and evaluation of the genetic and ecological landscape. 
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  4. Abstract

    Fisheries are often characterized by high heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of habitat quality, as well as fishing effort. However, in several fisheries, the objective of achieving a sustainable yield is addressed by limiting Total Allowable Catch (TAC), set as a fraction of the overall population, regardless of the population's spatial distribution and of fishing effort. Here, we use an integral projection model to investigate how stock abundance and catch in the green abalone fishery in Isla Natividad, Mexico, are affected by the interaction of heterogeneity in habitat quality and fishing effort, and whether these interactions change with Allee effects—reproductive failure in a low-density population. We found that high-quality areas are under-exploited when fishing pressure is homogeneous but habitat is heterogeneous. However, this leads to different fishery outcomes depending on the stock's exploitation status, namely: sub-optimal exploitation when the TAC is set to maximum sustainable yield, and stability against collapses when the fishery is overexploited. Concentration of fishing effort in productive areas can compensate for this effect, which, similarly, has opposite consequences in both scenarios: fishery performance increases if the TAC is sustainable but decreases in overexploited fisheries. These results only hold when Allee effects are included.

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  5. Humans live in complex socio-ecological systems where we interact with parasites and pathogens that spend time in abiotic and biotic environmental reservoirs (e.g., water, air, soil, other vertebrate hosts, vectors, intermediate hosts). Through a synthesis of published literature, we reviewed the life cycles and environmental persistence of 150 parasites and pathogens tracked by the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease study. We used those data to derive the time spent in each component of a pathogen's life cycle, including total time spent in humans versus all environmental stages. We found that nearly all infectious organisms were “environmentally mediated” to some degree, meaning that they spend time in reservoirs and can be transmitted from those reservoirs to human hosts. Correspondingly, many infectious diseases were primarily controlled through environmental interventions (e.g., vector control, water sanitation), whereas few (14%) were primarily controlled by integrated methods (i.e., combining medical and environmental interventions). Data on critical life history attributes for most of the 150 parasites and pathogens were difficult to find and often uncertain, potentially hampering efforts to predict disease dynamics and model interactions between life cycle time scales and infection control strategies. We hope that this synthetic review and associated database serve as a resource for understanding both common patterns among parasites and pathogens and important variability and uncertainty regarding particular infectious diseases. These insights can be used to improve systems-based approaches for controlling environmentally mediated diseases of humans in an era where the environment is rapidly changing. 
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  6. The development of water management infrastructures, such as dams and canals, are important components of society’s response to feed a growing human population and to fight climate change. Yet, these changes in land use can also increase the transmission risk for waterborne diseases. Transmission risk associated with artificial reservoirs has been extensively documented for schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease of poverty that infects more than 240 million people worldwide. Over 90% of these cases are in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that is being steadily reshaped by climate change. Controlling the parasite’s obligate intermediate host snail is key to reducing transmission of this disease. Using commercial aquaculture to farm marketable species which predate upon these snails in vulnerable regions can have multiple positive effects, including the improved socioeconomic and nutritional health of surrounding communities. Here the authors assessed the viability of using the aquaculture of snail predators to simultaneously control schistosomiasis infection rates while alleviating economic and/or nutritional poverty in endemic regions of sub-Saharan Africa. A PRISMA-based 6-step systematic methodology was used to explore the primary literature using the case study of Côte d’Ivoire and two native species of snail predator to make evidence-based conclusions on the viability of this method for controlling schistosomiasis. This detailed thematic examination of the literature concluded that using specific approaches and species, aquaculture could be effective in reducing economic poverty and chronic malnourishment along with high levels of schistosomiasis infection. More current species-specific aquaculture data and consumer survey data are, however, needed to determine the economic and logistical effectiveness of farming native snail predators in-country. These and other opportunities for future research are highlighted. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Water resources development promotes agricultural expansion and food security. But are these benefits offset by increased infectious disease risk? Dam construction on the Senegal River in 1986 was followed by agricultural expansion and increased transmission of human schistosomes. Yet the mechanisms linking these two processes at the individual and household levels remain unclear. We investigated the association between household land use and schistosome infection in children. Methods We analyzed cross-sectional household survey data ( n  = 655) collected in 16 rural villages in August 2016  across demographic, socio-economic and land use dimensions, which were matched to Schistosoma haematobium ( n  = 1232) and S. mansoni ( n  = 1222) infection data collected from school-aged children. Mixed effects regression determined the relationship between irrigated area and schistosome infection presence and intensity. Results Controlling for socio-economic and demographic risk factors, irrigated area cultivated by a household was associated with an increase in the presence of S. haematobium infection (odds ratio [ OR ] = 1.14; 95% confidence interval [95% CI ]: 1.03–1.28) but not S. mansoni infection ( OR  = 1.02; 95% CI : 0.93–1.11). Associations between infection intensity and irrigated area were positive but imprecise ( S. haematobium: rate ratio [ RR ] = 1.05; 95% CI : 0.98–1.13, S. mansoni : RR  = 1.09; 95% CI : 0.89–1.32). Conclusions Household engagement in irrigated agriculture increases individual risk of S. haematobium but not S. mansoni infection. Increased contact with irrigated landscapes likely drives exposure, with greater impacts on households relying on agricultural livelihoods. 
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