An ecological and conservation perspective on advances in the applied virology of zoonoses

Kurt J. Vandegrift, Nina Wale, Jonathan H. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The aim of this manuscript is to describe how modern advances in our knowledge of viruses and viral evolution can be applied to the fields of disease ecology and conservation. We review recent progress in virology and provide examples of how it is informing both empirical research in field ecology and applied conservation. We include a discussion of needed breakthroughs and ways to bridge communication gaps between the field and the lab. In an effort to foster this interdisciplinary effort, we have also included a table that lists the definitions of key terms. The importance of understanding the dynamics of zoonotic pathogens in their reservoir hosts is emphasized as a tool to both assess risk factors for spillover and to test hypotheses related to treatment and/or intervention strategies. In conclusion, we highlight the need for smart surveillance, viral discovery efforts and predictive modeling. A shift towards a predictive approach is necessary in today's globalized society because, as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic demonstrated, identification post-emergence is often too late to prevent global spread. Integrating molecular virology and ecological techniques will allow for earlier recognition of potentially dangerous pathogens, ideally before they jump from wildlife reservoirs into human or livestock populations and cause serious public health or conservation issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-397
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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