Using rat genetics to inform disease control in Brazil’s urban slums

In the community of Pau da Lima, Brazil, poor infrastructure and floods contribute to higher exposure to leptospirosis, a rat-borne disease. [Photo by Jonathan Richardson]
November 15, 2017

A research team from Yale and Providence College is using DNA analyses to combat the leptospirosis disease that plagues urban slums in Brazil. This tropical disease is transmitted by water contaminated with rat urine. Seasonal rains and floods bring new outbreaks, and highly populated favelas that foster high rat density are particularly susceptible to the disease.

By studying Norway rats and their urban landscape genetics, the team is able to determine the rats’ origins and the routes they followed between valleys. Understanding the rats –  key pest responsible for the outbreaks – is critical for minimizing people’s risk of contracting leptospirosis by informing disease control and monitoring actions.

Individuals participating in the research include Mary Burak (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies), Gisella Caccone (Yale Center for Genetic Analyses of Biodiversity), Jonathan Richardson (Providence College), and Albert Ko (Yale Laboratory of Epidemiology and Public Health).  

Read the full story on Scienceline.

Full paper: Richardson, J. L., Burak, M. K., Hernandez, C., Shirvell, J. M., Mariani, C., Carvalho‐Pereira, T. S., … & Taylor, J. (2017). Using fine‐scale spatial genetics of Norway rats to improve control efforts and reduce leptospirosis risk in urban slum environmentsEvolutionary Applications10(4), 323-337.

News & Updates

Earth Environmentalism & Jazz

April 18, 2018
Article by Oswald Schmitz. Originally published in Princeton University Press Blog   Pop music icon Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi”, released during the headiness of...

Yale Climate Day - May 4th, 2018

March 15, 2018
Yale Climate Day 2018, a Campuswide Climate Summit May 4, 2018   REGISTER HERE     Breakfast and Summit, 8:30 - 12:30 Location: Yale Peabody Museum’s David Friend...
African elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Botswana. Photo: Charlesjsharp

The importance of interpersonal communication in elephant conservation

January 21, 2018
African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations continue to decline rapidly due to ivory poaching. A global debate within the conservation community has resulted in little...