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Open AccessArticle

Linking Geospatial and Laboratory Sciences to Define Mechanisms behind Landscape Level Drivers of Anthrax Outbreaks

by Michael H. Norris 1,2,3 and Jason K. Blackburn 1,2,3,*
1
Department of Geography, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
2
Spatial Epidemiology and Ecology Research Lab, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
3
Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(19), 3747; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16193747
Received: 6 September 2019 / Revised: 27 September 2019 / Accepted: 1 October 2019 / Published: 4 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology and Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Zoonotic Diseases)
Background: A seasonal predictor of anthrax outbreaks is rainfall, which may be approximated by NDVI using remote sensing. How rainfall or vegetative green-up influences bacterial physiology or microecology to drive anthrax outbreaks is not known. Methods: Rainfall and NDVI dependency of anthrax epizootics was demonstrated with global and local phenological analysis. Growth analysis of B. anthracis in response to pH and calcium gradients was carried out. The influence of pH and calcium levels on expression of toxin and sporulation related proteins in broth culture models was characterized using engineered B. anthracis luminescent reporter strains. Results: Short-term bacterial growth and longer-term bacterial survival were altered by pH and calcium. These conditions also played a major role in pagA and sspB promoter-driven luminescent expression in B. anthracis. Conclusions: Rainfall induced cycling of pH and calcium in soils plays a plausible role in amplifying spore load and persistence in endemic anthrax zones. Observed evidence of B. anthracis favoring soil alkalinity and high soil calcium levels in the environment were linked to physiological conditions that promote bacterial growth, survival, toxin secretion and spore formation; illustrating the utility of bringing laboratory-based (controlled) microbiology experiments into the fold of zoonotic disease ecology. View Full-Text
Keywords: anthrax; luminescence; spores; infectious disease; zoonosis; NDVI; outbreak; Bacillus anthracis; interdisciplinary anthrax; luminescence; spores; infectious disease; zoonosis; NDVI; outbreak; Bacillus anthracis; interdisciplinary
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Norris, M.H.; Blackburn, J.K. Linking Geospatial and Laboratory Sciences to Define Mechanisms behind Landscape Level Drivers of Anthrax Outbreaks. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 3747.

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