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  1. Abstract Outbreaks of zoonotic diseases are accelerating at an unprecedented rate in the current era of globalization, with substantial impacts on the global economy, public health, and sustainability. Alien species invasions have been hypothesized to be important to zoonotic diseases by introducing both existing and novel pathogens to invaded ranges. However, few studies have evaluated the generality of alien species facilitating zoonoses across multiple host and parasite taxa worldwide. Here, we simultaneously quantify the role of 795 established alien hosts on the 10,473 zoonosis events across the globe since the 14 th century. We observe an average of ~5.9 zoonosesmore »per alien zoonotic host. After accounting for species-, disease-, and geographic-level sampling biases, spatial autocorrelation, and the lack of independence of zoonosis events, we find that the number of zoonosis events increase with the richness of alien zoonotic hosts, both across space and through time. We also detect positive associations between the number of zoonosis events per unit space and climate change, land-use change, biodiversity loss, human population density, and PubMed citations. These findings suggest that alien host introductions have likely contributed to zoonosis emergences throughout recent history and that minimizing future zoonotic host species introductions could have global health benefits.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Schistosomiasis is a debilitating parasitic disease of poverty that affects more than 200 million people worldwide, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, and is clearly associated with the construction of dams and water resource management infrastructure in tropical and subtropical areas. Changes to hydrology and salinity linked to water infrastructure development may create conditions favorable to the aquatic vegetation that is suitable habitat for the intermediate snail hosts of schistosome parasites. With thousands of small and large water reservoirs, irrigation canals, and dams developed or under construction in Africa, it is crucial to accurately assess the spatial distribution of high-risk environments thatmore »are habitat for freshwater snail intermediate hosts of schistosomiasis in rapidly changing ecosystems. Yet, standard techniques for monitoring snails are labor-intensive, time-consuming, and provide information limited to the small areas that can be manually sampled. Consequently, in low-income countries where schistosomiasis control is most needed, there are formidable challenges to identifying potential transmission hotspots for targeted medical and environmental interventions. In this study, we developed a new framework to map the spatial distribution of suitable snail habitat across large spatial scales in the Senegal River Basin by integrating satellite data, high-definition, low-cost drone imagery, and an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered computer vision technique called semantic segmentation. A deep learning model (U-Net) was built to automatically analyze high-resolution satellite imagery to produce segmentation maps of aquatic vegetation, with a fast and robust generalized prediction that proved more accurate than a more commonly used random forest approach. Accurate and up-to-date knowledge of areas at highest risk for disease transmission can increase the effectiveness of control interventions by targeting habitat of disease-carrying snails. With the deployment of this new framework, local governments or health actors might better target environmental interventions to where and when they are most needed in an integrated effort to reach the goal of schistosomiasis elimination.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  4. Predicting and disrupting transmission of human parasites from wildlife hosts or vectors remains challenging because ecological interactions can influence their epidemiological traits. Human schistosomes, parasitic flatworms that cycle between freshwater snails and humans, typify this challenge. Human exposure risk, given water contact, is driven by the production of free-living cercariae by snail populations. Conventional epidemiological models and management focus on the density of infected snails under the assumption that all snails are equally infectious. However, individual-level experiments contradict this assumption, showing increased production of schistosome cercariae with greater access to food resources. We built bioenergetics theory to predict how resourcemore »competition among snails drives the temporal dynamics of transmission potential to humans and tested these predictions with experimental epidemics and demonstrated consistency with field observations. This resource-explicit approach predicted an intense pulse of transmission potential when snail populations grow from low densities, i.e., when per capita access to resources is greatest, due to the resource-dependence of cercarial production. The experiment confirmed this prediction, identifying a strong effect of infected host size and the biomass of competitors on per capita cercarial production. A field survey of 109 waterbodies also found that per capita cercarial production decreased as competitor biomass increased. Further quantification of snail densities, sizes, cercarial production, and resources in diverse transmission sites is needed to assess the epidemiological importance of resource competition and support snail-based disruption of schistosome transmission. More broadly, this work illustrates how resource competition can sever the correspondence between infectious host density and transmission potential.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 8, 2023
  5. Background: Schistosomiasis is an emerging disease associated with changes to the environment that have increased human contact rates with disease-causing parasites, flatworms that are released from freshwater snails. For example, schistosomiasis remains a major public health problem in Northern Senegal, where prevalence in schoolchildren often reaches 90%. Aim: This study focuses on the impact of seasonality on the risk of human exposure (RHE) to Schistosoma mansoni, defined as the total number of cercariae (the free-living life stage that infects humans) shed from all Biomphalaria pfeifferi snails collected at a site using standardized methods. We focus on RHE because it ismore »rarely quantified and a recent study demonstrated that snails stop shedding cercariae when snail densities increase and thus per capita snail resources become limited [2], suggesting that densities of snails might not be directly proportional to RHE to schistosomes. Method: We sampled four water access points in three villages every other week during the early (Dry1) and later dry seasons (Dry2) and the rainy season, quantifying the abundance of infected and non-infected snail intermediate hosts, cercariae released per infected snail, and water chemistry. We used simple and multiple linear regressions to assess how seasonality and environmental parameters affect non-infected and infected snail abundance and RHE. Results: Although RHE was found across all seasons, the abundance of infected and non-infected snail intermediate hosts and cercariae, as well as prevalence (23.71%), were all highest in the rainy season. In the rainy season, RHE was positively associated with the density of snail hosts and their periphyton food resource. Conclusion: Although previous studies have examined the influence of seasonality on snail densities, few studies have explored the effects of seasonality on cercarial densities, which is the primary source of infection to humans. Our study demonstrates that cercarial densities are greater in the rainy season than in the early or late dry seasons. Given that cercarial densities directly pose risk of infection to humans, unlike non-infected or infected snails, these finding should help to inform decision making and schistosomiasis control efforts in West Africa.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 31, 2022
  6. Secor, W. Evan (Ed.)
    Schistosome parasites infect more than 200 million people annually, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, where people may be co-infected with more than one species of the parasite. Infection risk for any single species is determined, in part, by the distribution of its obligate intermediate host snail. As the World Health Organization reprioritizes snail control to reduce the global burden of schistosomiasis, there is renewed importance in knowing when and where to target those efforts, which could vary by schistosome species. This study estimates factors associated with schistosomiasis risk in 16 villages located in the Senegal River Basin, a region hyperendemic formore »Schistosoma haematobium and S . mansoni . We first analyzed the spatial distributions of the two schistosomes’ intermediate host snails ( Bulinus spp. and Biomphalaria pfeifferi , respectively) at village water access sites. Then, we separately evaluated the relationships between human S . haematobium and S . mansoni infections and (i) the area of remotely-sensed snail habitat across spatial extents ranging from 1 to 120 m from shorelines, and (ii) water access site size and shape characteristics. We compared the influence of snail habitat across spatial extents because, while snail sampling is traditionally done near shorelines, we hypothesized that snails further from shore also contribute to infection risk. We found that, controlling for demographic variables, human risk for S . haematobium infection was positively correlated with snail habitat when snail habitat was measured over a much greater radius from shore (45 m to 120 m) than usual. S . haematobium risk was also associated with large, open water access sites. However, S . mansoni infection risk was associated with small, sheltered water access sites, and was not positively correlated with snail habitat at any spatial sampling radius. Our findings highlight the need to consider different ecological and environmental factors driving the transmission of each schistosome species in co-endemic landscapes.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 27, 2022
  7. Temperature constrains the transmission of many pathogens. Interventions that target temperature-sensitive life stages, such as vector control measures that kill intermediate hosts, could shift the thermal optimum of transmission, thereby altering seasonal disease dynamics and rendering interventions less effective at certain times of the year and with global climate change. To test these hypotheses, we integrated an epidemiological model of schistosomiasis with empirically determined temperature-dependent traits of the human parasiteSchistosoma mansoniand its intermediate snail host (Biomphalariaspp.). We show that transmission risk peaks at 21.7 °C (Topt), and simulated interventions targeting snails and free-living parasite larvae increasedToptby up to 1.3 °Cmore »because intervention-related mortality overrode thermal constraints on transmission. ThisToptshift suggests that snail control is more effective at lower temperatures, and global climate change will increase schistosomiasis risk in regions that move closer toTopt. Considering regional transmission phenologies and timing of interventions when local conditions approachToptwill maximize human health outcomes.

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  8. null (Ed.)
    Research on the ‘ecology of fear’ posits that defensive prey responses to avoid predation can cause non-lethal effects across ecological scales. Parasites also elicit defensive responses in hosts with associated non-lethal effects, which raises the longstanding, yet unresolved question of how non-lethal effects of parasites compare with those of predators. We developed a framework for systematically answering this question for all types of predator–prey and host–parasite systems. Our framework reveals likely differences in non-lethal effects not only between predators and parasites, but also between different types of predators and parasites. Trait responses should be strongest towards predators, parasitoids and parasiticmore »castrators, but more numerous and perhaps more frequent for parasites than for predators. In a case study of larval amphibians, whose trait responses to both predators and parasites have been relatively well studied, existing data indicate that individuals generally respond more strongly and proactively to short-term predation risks than to parasitism. Apart from studies using amphibians, there have been few direct comparisons of responses to predation and parasitism, and none have incorporated responses to micropredators, parasitoids or parasitic castrators, or examined their long-term consequences. Addressing these and other data gaps highlighted by our framework can advance the field towards understanding how non-lethal effects impact prey/host population dynamics and shape food webs that contain multiple predator and parasite species.« less