Disease Ecology – Kunz


Disease Ecology – Kunz


Posted 12 September 2011, by Professor Thomas Kunz, Boston University Research, bu.edu



White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first identified in 2006 as an emerging infectious disease of bats and has since been implicated in widespread population collapses and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of animals. Since then, the epidemiology behind this disease indicates that regional extinctions of the little brown bat (M. lucifugus), one of the most abundant bat species in North America, are likely to occur. Because of the importance of bats as predators of numerous pest insect species, it is imperative that we begin to address this rapidly developing problem in order to avoid the potential collapse of affected ecosystems as well as the potential of increased incidence of arthropod-borne diseases. MHC genes are the most polymorphic loci known in vertebrates and this diversity is well appreciated to play an important role in resistance to infectious disease. MHC genes encode cell surface glycoproteins whose primary role is! to present self and non-self peptides to circulating T lymphocytes (T-cells), which are essential components of the vertebrate immune system. This study seeks to first characterize MHC diversity in little brown bat populations, and to then correlate this diversity with patterns of resistance to WNS. Understanding the impacts of WNS on little brown bat MHC diversity offers one of the first chances to identify how an infectious agent influences contemporary patterns of selection on immunologically relevant loci.  Also, from a practical standpoint, characterizing MHC genetic variation within little brown bat populations could be useful for identifying whether there is a genetic basis for resistance to WNS. This could allow biologists to focus conservation efforts/resources on more susceptible bat populations. As MHC diversity is primarily important for the adaptive immune response, this study would also be useful for identifying whether adaptive or innate immunity is more important for resistance to this infectious agent.





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