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Tracing Zoonotic Disease Risks and Immunological Adaptations in Bats, Humans and Human Commensals Across the Central American Countryside

Funding Year: 
2014
Region(s): 
North America
Research Areas: 
Natural Capital
Public Health

Deforestation can cause new diseases to emerge, as humans and other species at the margins of agricultural and natural environments encounter one another. This project is focused on preventing public health crises by identifying potential disease risks and informing researchers and health care providers about the pathways by which such diseases are spread.

The project will focus on bats, which are important for ecosystem functioning and also are known vectors of human disease. With increased landscape modification comes increased contact between bats and humans, and a greater potential for disease transmission. Working in a mosaic landscape of agriculture and forest in southern Costa Rica, the EVP team will use multiple approaches to sample bats, humans and human-symbiotic organisms for diseases that can pass between species. In partnership with local doctors, the researchers will do survey work to identify human populations at risk for disease and the behaviors that put them at risk. Then they will synthesize their findings into educational materials and modules for use by local doctors and communities that are scalable to similar settings throughout the world.