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  1. Abstract Contaminated drinking water is an important public health consideration in New England where well water is often found to contain arsenic and other metals such as cadmium, lead, and uranium. Chronic or high level exposure to these metals have been associated with multiple acute and chronic diseases, including cancers and impaired neurological development. While individual metal levels are often regulated, adverse health effects of metal mixtures, especially at concentrations considered safe for human consumption remain unclear. Here, we utilized a multivariate analysis that examined behavioral outcomes in the zebrafish model as a function of multiple metal chemical constituents ofmore »92 drinking well water samples, collected in Maine and New Hampshire. To collect these samples, a citizen science approach was used, that engaged local teachers, students, and scientific partners. Our analysis of 4016 metal-mixture combinations shows that changes in zebrafish behavior are highly mixture dependent, and indicate that certain combinations of metals, especially those containing arsenic, cadmium, lead, and uranium, even at levels considered safe in drinking water, are significant drivers of behavioral toxicity. Our data emphasize the need to consider low-level chemical mixture effects and provide a framework for a more in-depth analysis of drinking water samples. We also provide evidence for the efficacy of utilizing citizen science in research, as the broader impact of this work is to empower local communities to advocate for improving their own water quality.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  2. When a transmission hotspot for an environmentally persistent pathogen establishes in otherwise high-quality habitat, the disease may exert a strong impact on a host population. However, fluctuating environmental conditions lead to heterogeneity in habitat quality and animal habitat preference, which may interrupt the overlap between selected and risky habitats. We evaluated spatio-temporal patterns in anthrax mortalities in a plains zebra ( Equus quagga ) population in Etosha National Park, Namibia, incorporating remote-sensing and host telemetry data. A higher proportion of anthrax mortalities of herbivores was detected in open habitats than in other habitat types. Resource selection functions showed that themore »zebra population shifted habitat selection in response to changes in rainfall and vegetation productivity. Average to high rainfall years supported larger anthrax outbreaks, with animals congregating in preferred open habitats, while a severe drought forced animals into otherwise less preferred habitats, leading to few anthrax mortalities. Thus, the timing of anthrax outbreaks was congruent with preference for open plains habitats and a corresponding increase in pathogen exposure. Given shifts in habitat preference, the overlap in high-quality habitat and high-risk habitat is intermittent, reducing the adverse consequences for the population.« less
  3. Disease outbreaks are a consequence of interactions among the three components of a host–parasite system: the infectious agent, the host and the environment. While virulence and transmission are widely investigated, most studies of parasite life-history trade-offs are conducted with theoretical models or tractable experimental systems where transmission is standardized and the environment controlled. Yet, biotic and abiotic environmental factors can strongly affect disease dynamics, and ultimately, host–parasite coevolution. Here, we review research on how environmental context alters virulence–transmission relationships, focusing on the off-host portion of the parasite life cycle, and how variation in parasite survival affects the evolution of virulencemore »and transmission. We review three inter-related ‘approaches’ that have dominated the study of the evolution of virulence and transmission for different host–parasite systems: (i) evolutionary trade-off theory, (ii) parasite local adaptation and (iii) parasite phylodynamics. These approaches consider the role of the environment in virulence and transmission evolution from different angles, which entail different advantages and potential biases. We suggest improvements to how to investigate virulence–transmission relationships, through conceptual and methodological developments and taking environmental context into consideration. By combining developments in life-history evolution, phylogenetics, adaptive dynamics and comparative genomics, we can improve our understanding of virulence–transmission relationships across a diversity of host–parasite systems that have eluded experimental study of parasite life history.« less