Researchers from Colorado State University (CSU) have decided not to let sleeping dogs lie. Every once in a while entire colonies of prairie dogs are wiped out by the spread of infectious disease, and biologists have taken notice and are studying our four-legged friends to learn more.
Plagues have been a major human health concern since the Black Plague of the 14th century killed 50 million people in Europe. The Yersinia Pestis bacterium—usually spread through flea bites—causes plagues, which have occurred in rural areas in the Western U.S. over the last century, and in urban Los Angeles in the 1920s.
Infectious disease that begins among a group of animals may become zoonotic, or passed between animals and humans. This is not uncommon: six out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals, including MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and even Ebola.
CSU’s furry findings have shed new light on “hosts” responsible for disease, transmission models, and even ecological conditions that may impact pathogen spread.
Partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the researchers hope their study leads to better measures for modeling and predicting the transmission of infectious disease for a healthier tomorrow.