Public Health Interests
My area of research includes the ecological dynamics of
the transmission of zoonotic pathogens from animals to humans. Zoonotic pathogens are those agents which naturally infect animals, sometimes without any indication of pathologic change or disease in the host animal serving as the 'reservoir' species, but when transmitted to humans result in disease. I study viruses and bacteria which can be directly transmitted to humans, such as the bacterium causing the human disease leptospirosis, which is transmitted through contact with environments contaminated by leptospires shed in the urine of naturally infected hosts and those agents which require a vector species for transmission (e.g. the bacterium causing Lyme disease in humans which are acquired when an infected tick bites a human.
Extensive Research Description
My research has focused on the transmission of zoonotic pathogens to humans. I have focused on the acquisition, maintenance and transmission of infectious agents within natural reservoir-host species and on the risk factors contributing to human infection and disease. My interests include directly-transmitted zoonotic viruses, such as the hantaviruses, arenaviruses and rabies, and vector-borne bacteria, including rickettsia, bartonella and borrelia.My current interests and research, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Albert Ko, Division Chief at Yale, and Fleur Porter, an MPH candidate, focus on the ecoepidemiology of intra- and inter-specific transmission of leptospires in an urban slum setting in Salvador, Brazil. The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) is the principal reservoir host for leptospires causing human disease in Salvador, however, scant knowledge exists on the mechanisms of acquisition, maintenance and shedding of this bacterium by rats. Humans are directly infected by leptospires through contact with environments contaminated with spirochetes shed in the urine of infected rats Defining parameters of the natural history of leptospiral infection within individual rats and within rat populations, coupled with determinations of critical environmental and ecological features underlying the distribution and density of rat populations, will help elucidate risk factors for human infection and disease.