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Project Accomplishments

Wildlife-Associated Pathogens Affecting Agricultural Health, Food Security, and Food Safety (WFS) 

PROJECT GOAL: Understand the ecological role of wildlife in transmission and movement of emerging viral and bacterial pathogens causing livestock and human disease in order to develop diagnostic, surveillance, and management methods to minimize the impact of those diseases on agricultural production and human health

Accomplishments 2014-2018 

Transmission risks to agriculture from pathogenic viruses in wildlife

  • WFS scientists demonstrated that mammals such as (skunks, rabbits and raccoons) are potential transmission risks for avian influenza viruses such as (H7N9).  This information will be helpful for farm/wildlife biosecurity risk assessments.
  • Scientists identified that low levels of wildlife incursions into produce fields (leafy greens) did not represent a high risk of produce contamination.
  • H5N2, H5N8 and H5N1 were detected in healthy waterfowl which indicate general AIV models may apply to estimate movement and dispersal risks for these subtypes.

Impacts of wildlife in the spread and transmission of pathogenic and anti-microbial resistant bacteria in agricultural systems.

  • Prevalence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in raccoons and deer mice were documented at feedlots and WFS researchers determined that raccoons are a potential carrier of AMR to and from feedlots.
  • AMR was documented higher downstream of water treatment plants suggesting anthropogenic sources are important.

 Risks of pathogen introduction and spread in the U.S. by movement of wildlife

  • Antibody persistence was quantified in mallards and will be useful in surveillance efforts.
  • WFS scientists found that mallard body condition did not influence transmission and infection susceptibility for AIV.
  • AIV Infection and antibody profile was examined in snow geese a highly migratory species.  Other species were examined and it was found that House sparrows and rabbits could pose biosecurity risks.
  • WFS scientists demonstrated that raccoons are not competent hosts for Zika Virus

Role of wildlife as reservoirs for novel pathogens that threaten food safety and security

  • Commensal birds tested positive for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) at swine facilities prompting the need for studies to better assess risk.

Developing field and laboratory methods to improve wildlife disease research

  • Methods were developed to estimate sample sizes needed to detect influenza A viruses in wild birds and these methods resulted in more streamlined and efficient influenza surveillance efforts
  • A novel bead-based flow cytometric assay was developed  to detect Yersinia pestis (plague) antibodies in wildlife blood sample
  • A resin-based method to detect aerosolized viruses was developed.

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