Multiple hosts – one parasite: how multi-host parasites contribute to host shifts and disease emergence.
(i) Experimental disease emergence: baculoviruses as a model system
(ii) Historical and future disease emergence in humans and wild primates
In parallel with an experimental approach, we use The Global Mammal Parasite Database to conduct comparatives studies of pathogen host range in wild primates and humans in collaboration with my colleague, Jonathan Davies (McGill Univerisity, Canada). Our previous research has demonstrated that most primate parasites can infect multiple hosts and that primates, including humans, are more likely to share pathogens with their relatives (closely related species) and neighbours (geographically overlapping species). These findings are, in part, due to a higher frequency of host shifts between neighbours and relatives. This has important implications for human health and primate conservation, as disease emergence following a host shift can result in rapid spread and high virulence because naive hosts often lack appropriate immune responses. Ultimately, the goal of this research is to build up from the experimental model systems to determine the ecological and evolutionary drivers of host shifts and to predict the likelihood of future disease emergence.