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Mason researchers studying zoonotic transmission pathways

Taylor M. Anderson, assistant professor, Geography and Geoinformation Science, andAmira Roess, professor, Global Health and Epidemiology, are studying zoonotic transmission pathways. 

Specifically, the researchers received funding for the project: "Investigating zoonotic transmission pathways to better understand and predict the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in urban and suburban landscapes: a case study of the white-tailed deer." 

They aim to investigate unknown transmission pathways at the human-wildlife interface in urban settings and to integrate these relevant pathways into a modeling framework that can more broadly predict the risk of spillover from wildlife to humans. White-tailed deer will be used as a case study, common in urban settings and carrying many diseases including SARS-CoV-2. Uncovering potential transmission pathways between humans and wildlife is critical for mitigating zoonotic disease spillover leading to potential new emerging diseases in human populations. 

“By leveraging experts in data science, epidemiology, and urban ecology, this project provides a rare opportunity to observe interactions between people and wildlife in urban settings" said Anderson. "Collecting data that captures where, when, and why these interactions occur are the first steps for predicting spillover of disease between human and ecological systems”. 

Roess added "Our work is focused on understanding the role urban wildlife play in zoonotic pathogen transmission. This work is especially important given that in urban areas, where more and more people are living, there are many opportunities for wildlife to come into close contact with humans.”

In collaboration with researchers from University of Maryland, including project PI Travis Gallo and Co-PI Jennifer Mullinax, the researchers were awarded a total of $3,644,696 from the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS). Co-PIs Anderson and Roess of Mason will receive $1,203,594 from University of Maryland on a subaward for this project over two years. Funding began in August 2023 and will end in August 2025.