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The role of population structure and size in determining bat pathogen richness

Lucas, TCD; (2016) The role of population structure and size in determining bat pathogen richness. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Pathogens acquired from animals make up the majority of emerging human diseases, are often highly virulent and can have large effects on public health and economic development. Identifying species with high pathogen species richness enables efficient sampling and monitoring of potentially dangerous pathogens. I examine the role of host population structure and size in maintaining pathogen species richness in an important reservoir host for zoonotic viruses, bats (Order, Chiroptera). Firstly I test whether population structure is associated with high viral richness across bat species with a comparative, phylogenetic analysis. I find evidence that bat species with more structured populations have more virus species. As this type of study cannot distinguish between specific mechanisms, I then formulate epidemiological models to test whether more structured host populations may allow invading pathogens to avoid competition. However, these models show that increasing population structure decreases the rate of pathogen invasion. As both global host population structure and local group size appear to be important for disease invasion, I use the same modelling framework to compare the importance of host density, group size and number of groups. I find that host group size has a stronger effect than density or number of groups. There are few bat population size estimates to empirically test the importance of host population size on pathogen richness. Therefore, to assist future research, I develop a method for estimating bat population sizes from acoustic surveys. Overall in this thesis, I show that the structure and size of host bat populations can affect their ability to maintain many pathogen species and I provide a method to measure population sizes of bats. These findings increase our understanding of the ecological process of pathogen community construction and can help optimise surveillance for zoonotic pathogens.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The role of population structure and size in determining bat pathogen richness
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: zoonotic diseases, pathogen competition, bats, epidemiology, ecology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1531925
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