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Award Abstract #1316549

Emergence, transmission and evolution of Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease

Division Of Environmental Biology
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Initial Amendment Date: July 10, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: July 10, 2013
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Award Number: 1316549
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: Samuel M. Scheiner
DEB Division Of Environmental Biology
BIO Direct For Biological Sciences
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Start Date: August 15, 2013
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End Date: July 31, 2017 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $1,675,000.00
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Investigator(s): Andrew Storfer astorfer@wsu.edu (Principal Investigator)
Menna Jones (Co-Principal Investigator)
Elizabeth Murchison (Co-Principal Investigator)
Hamish McCallum (Co-Principal Investigator)
Paul Hohenlohe (Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Washington State University
PULLMAN, WA 99164-3140 (509)335-9661
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Program Reference Code(s): 7242, EGCH
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Program Element Code(s): 7242


Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are considered a grand challenge in the environmental sciences for the 21st century because of their effects on human, wildlife and agricultural health. Infectious diseases are now listed as the sixth leading cause of species extinctions, and an EID has caused the endangerment of the iconic Tasmanian devil. Across Tasmania, devil populations are being decimated by an infectious cancer called Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease. Although only a few infectious cancers are documented, this cancer shares properties with human cancers. This study will investigate how transmission is related to heterogeneity in contacts and genomic variation in host and/and or tumor within populations. Genetic studies may reveal underlying causes of devil facial tumor longevity, perhaps providing information on cancer recurrence in humans. Further, extensive background research on devils, including thousands of samples before and after die-offs, affords the rare opportunity to study genomic interactions of an infectious agent and its host across an entire species? range. These genomic studies will shed light on the genetic basis of relative susceptibility of devils to the tumor, thereby allowing managers to choose the best individuals for captive breeding programs. In addition, knowledge of rates and direction of past tumor spread enables the unique ability to predict the precise location of future infections. In turn, devil contact network modeling and genomic studies of populations expected to become infected will facilitate the testing of predictions regarding the course of epidemics in new populations. This knowledge may help in developing responses to future human epidemics.


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