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Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission

20 Mawrth 2017

Entwined transmission stages (cercariae) of parasites from the Schistosoma genus
Cover image: This art nouveau-inspired image “Beta” is formed from entwined transmission stages (cercariae) of parasites from the Schistosoma genus. (Designed by Dr Rhys Jones, Cardiff University, School of Biosciences.)

School of Biosciences lecturer, Dr Joanne Lello, has co-edited a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, titled Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission.

Though incredibly diverse, parasite and pathogen species all have one thing in common - the need to move between hosts. Breaking this transmission cycle is essential for successful parasite control. Yet, transmission is probably the least well-studied or understood component of the parasite life cycle.

This publication summarises current knowledge in this field, proposes novel perspectives to promote discussion and emphasises those areas where the greatest need for future research lies. It also highlights the importance of assessing transmission in real world settings, where changing environmental conditions and multiple-host species, can greatly complicate the measurement and control of parasite transmission and influence its evolution. The issue emphasises that by deconstructing the transmission process into its various steps we can better understand the drivers and make more accurate estimates of transmission rates.

Dr Lello’s co-editor on this project was Professor Andy Fenton of Liverpool University. Both Dr Lello and Professor Fenton sit on the British Ecological Society Special Interest Group ‘Parasite and Pathogen Ecology and Evolution’, as Chair and co-Chair respectively.

Dr Lello explained the inspiration behind the publication.

“This journal issue was the final culmination of a 2015 research retreat run by Professor Fenton and myself, at Gregynog Hall mid-Wales. The idea of the retreat was to bring together leading researchers in the field to discuss the understudied topic of transmission. This special issue, chiefly contains papers that were conceived and initiated at the retreat, with the addition of a few other solicited manuscripts.”

In addition to editing the issue, Dr Lello also co-wrote the editorial Lost in Transmission…? and is an author on the paper Breaking Beta: deconstructing the parasite transmission function, which is featured in the journal.

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