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Why infectious disease research needs community ecology

09/04/2015

BACKGROUND: Despite ongoing advances in biomedicine, infectious diseases remain a major threat to human health, economic sustainability, and wildlife conservation. This is in part a result of the challenges of controlling widespread or persistent infections that involve multiple hosts, vectors, and parasite species. Moreover, many contemporary disease threats involve interactions that manifest across nested scales of biological organization, from disease progression at the within-host level to emergence and spread at the regional level. For many such infections, complete eradication is unlikely to be successful, but a broader understanding of the community in which host-parasite interactions are embedded will facilitate more effective management. Recent advances in community ecology, including findings from traits-based approaches and metacommunity theory, offer the tools and concepts to address the complexities arising from multispecies, multiscale disease threats.

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