Pathogen co-infection patterns within domestic dogs in rural environments

Djion Holness, a student from the University of Connecticut, worked with Amaka Nina Ananaba in the lab of Dr. Nicole Gottdenker to examine pathogen co-infection in dogs.

Abstract: Pathogens can interact with each other within a host, which can influence patterns of co-infection in populations by complex interactions within the host’s immune system, such as immunosuppression caused by infection with one pathogen which may influence susceptibility to infection with other pathogens. Furthermore, behavioral and environmental factors, such as habitat-associated contacts with a vector, can influence patterns of host co-infection. The objective of this study is to evaluate pathogen coinfection patterns in domestic dogs that live in rural communities occurring across a gradient of deforestation in rural Panama. The pathogens studied in the dogs included a mosquito-borne nematode (heartworm, dirofilaria), a triatomine vector-borne protozoan pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi , a sandfly transmitted protozoan pathogen (cutaneous leishmaniasis), and canine distemper virus. Data was collected from about 275 domestic dogs from 6 communities surrounded by distinct levels of deforestation (2 highly deforested, 2 moderately deforestated, 2 surrounded by forests), to the east and west of the
Panama Canal. Serologic tests were used to evaluate pathogen exposure and/or presence. Using a generalized linear mixed model there was no significance association between pathogen species richness and habitat type. A co-occurence model showed that there were no pathogen co-infections that occurred greater or less than expected due to chance. Results suggest that infection patterns of pathogens in this study are driven more by environmental factors and that there is little interaction between co-infecting pathogens in the studied dog populations.

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