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News Release 13-174

Outbreak: Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease grants support research on disease transmission

Awards fund studies of how diseases spread among humans, other animals and the environment

A Tasmanian devil

EEID scientists will research an infectious cancer decimating Tasmanian devil populations.

September 30, 2013

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Tasmanian devil facial disease; infection with antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus; foot-and-mouth disease; malaria: Is our interaction with the environment somehow responsible for the increased incidence of these diseases?

The joint National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program is providing answers.

The EEID program supports efforts to understand the ecological and biological mechanisms behind human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases.

NSF and NIH--in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.K.'s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)--have awarded more than $16 million in new EEID grants.

"Our understanding of the ecology and evolution of pathogens comes from knitting together information from many different sources," says Sam Scheiner, NSF EEID program director. At NSF, EEID is funded by the Directorates for Biological Sciences, Geosciences, and Social, Economic & Behavioral Sciences.

"They include diseases of humans, frogs, honeybees and plants," says Scheiner. "Each system provides a different piece of the puzzle that helps us protect human health, the health of our agricultural systems and that of our natural world."

Projects funded through the EEID program allow scientists to study how large-scale environmental events--such as habitat destruction, invasions of non-native species and pollution--alter the risks of emergence of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases in humans and other animals.

"This year's EEID projects bring together multiple scientific fields to address how human and natural processes influence infectious diseases in humans and other animals, including diseases that affect wildlife and agriculture, as well as those of significant public health concern in the developing world," says Christine Jessup, EEID program director at NIH's Fogarty Center.

"Findings from EEID-supported research are improving public health interventions and management decisions."

Researchers supported by the EEID program are advancing basic theory related to infectious diseases, and improving understanding of how pathogens spread through populations at a time of increasing environmental change.

The benefits of research on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases include development of theories about how diseases are transmitted, improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects, increased capacity to forecast disease outbreaks, and knowledge of how infectious diseases emerge and reemerge.

"Animal and plant diseases cause significant losses in food production around the globe and pose risks to human health," says Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director.

"As NIFA and the scientific community work toward solutions that ensure our food security, research on the evolution and spread of infectious diseases will help us understand how best to prevent, predict and respond to these threats."

This year's EEID awardees will conduct research on such topics as the emergence of Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease, honeybees and their parasites, the evolution and spread of virulent infectious diseases, the macroecology of infectious disease, and the persistence of foot-and-mouth disease.

"Tackling the infectious diseases that threaten the health of humans and livestock is a critical need, especially in the face of a growing global human population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050," says Douglas Kell, BBSRC chief executive.

"We face many challenges related to food security and health. These EEID projects will combine international expertise to help us find solutions."

EEID 2013 Grants

Andrew T. Storfer, Washington State University, Emergence, transmission and evolution of Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease

Additional Collaborators: Hamish McCallum, Griffith University; Menna Jones, University of Tasmania; Elizabeth Murchison, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute; Paul Hohenlohe, University of Idaho

Patrick Stephens, University of Georgia, RCN Proposal: Macroecology of infectious disease

Additional Collaborators: Robert Poulin, University of Otago; Sonia Altizer, University of Georgia; Katherine Smith, Brown University; Alonso Aguirre, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation

Jill Stewart, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The impact of intensive livestock production on the disease ecology of antibiotic resistant staphylococcus

Additional Collaborators: Jacqueline A. MacDonald, Rachel T. Noble, Marc L. Serre, Steven B. Wing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bret Elderd, Louisiana State University, Scaling up epizootic dynamics--Linking individual infection to spatial spread of a disease using Bayesian hierarchical approaches

Additional Collaborators: Kelli Hoover, Penn State University; Michael Stout, Louisiana State University AgCenter; Vanja Dukic, University of Colorado

Cheryl Briggs, University of California-Santa Barbara, Disease in complex communities: How multi-host, multi-pathogen interactions drive infection dynamics

Additional Collaborators: Andrew R. Blaustein, Oregon State University, Jason T. Hoverman, Perdue University, Pieter T. Johnson, University of Colorado, Jason R. Rohr, University of South Florida

Jacobus de Roode, Emory University, US-UK collaboration: Understanding the effects of spatial structure on the evolution of virulence in the real world: honeybees and their destructive parasites

Additional Collaborators: Berry J. Brosi, Emory University; Keith Delaplane, University of Georgia

Wayne K. Potts, University of Utah, The evolution and spread of virulent infectious disease

Additional Collaborators: Frederick R. Adler, University of Utah; Henry D. Hunt, Michigan State University

Mercedes Pascual, University of Michigan, The impact of seasonality and vector control on the population structure of Plasmodium falciparum

Additional Collaborators: Karen P. Day, New York University, Kwadwo A. Koram, University of Ghana

Anna E. Jolles, Oregon State University, US-UK collaboration: Persistence of a highly contagious pathogen: ecological and evolutionary mechanisms in foot-and-mouth disease virus

Additional Collaborators: Jan Medlock, Oregon State University

Alison G. Power, Cornell University, US-UK collaboration: Spatial epidemiology of a vector-borne plant virus: Interactions between landscape, hosts, vectors and an emerging disease of potatoes

Additional Collaborators: Laura E. Jones, Cornell University


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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