In order to protect the health of their animals, it is critical for farmers to understand how infectious diseases spread. Large-scale disease in livestock populations can also impact the food chain.
In order to develop an informatics pipeline that can be used to improve proactive disease management strategies, PhD student Marie Gilbertson worked with data about Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi). These cats are a subspecies of mountain lion that lives only in southern Florida. They are endangered, with a small population that has been well studied by scientists. Dr. Gilbertson used data for two retroviruses that affect the panthers, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). She was able to develop a model that predicts how a disease spreads in a population in the presence or absence of several other factors such as vaccination or temporary restrictions on the cats’ movements. MSI resources were used to run some of the simulations.
The analysis pipeline Dr. Gilbertson developed uses publicly available software. Besides being used for Florida panther conservation, the tool will be used in ongoing research into tracking and protecting against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) in swine. It could also be used for other livestock populations.
Dr. Gilbertson is a member of the MSI research group of Meggan Craft (associate professor, Veterinary Population Medicine) and holds a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (2017) as well as her recently awarded PhD. The Craft group uses MSI for projects that study aspects of infectious disease ecology.
Some funding for this project was provided by a 2020 UMII MnDRIVE PhD Graduate Assistantship. This program supports UMN PhD candidates pursuing research at the intersection of informatics and any of the five MnDRIVE areas:
- Robotics, Sensors and Advanced Manufacturing
- Global Food Ventures
- Advancing Industry, Conserving Our Environment
- Discoveries and Treatments for Brain Conditions
- Cancer Clinical Trials
Image description: Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). Creative Commons license: "Panther Male in Refuge" by MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
posted on May 25, 2021