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Curbing plague outbreaks in prairie dog colonies

Summary: Researchers will investigate if amoeba (single-celled animals) living in soils in endemic plague areas can serve as reservoir hosts for Yersinia pestis (the causative agent for bubonic plague) and if amoeba are involved in plague disease cycles.

Description: Bubonic plague is a widespread zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Little is known about how Y. pestis persists between disease outbreaks, making it difficult for wildlife managers to implement preemptive measures to control epidemics. Researchers will investigate if amoeba taken from soils around active plague sites in Colorado can support long-term survival or replication of Y. pestis. Researchers will study these single-celled animals in controlled laboratory cultures and in prairie dog burrow soils under conditions that mimic plague disease cycles. Understanding Y. pestis–amoeba interactions in endemic areas will help researchers predict and curb plague outbreaks, preventing large scale die-offs of prairie dogs and other animals that depend on the prairie dog habitat for their survival.


INVESTIGATOR: Dr. Viveka Vadyvaloo, Washington State University