Using real-time PCR and Bayesian analysis to distinguish susceptible tubificid taxa important in the transmission of Myxobolus cerebralis, the cause of salmonid whirling disease
International Journal for Parasitology, 43, 493-501, 2013
Abstract: Aquatic oligochaetes have long been appreciated for their value in assessing habitat quality because they are ubiquitous sediment-dwelling filter feeders. Many oligochaete taxa are also important in the transmission of fish diseases. Distinguishing resistant and susceptible taxa is important for managing fish disease, yet challenging in practice. Tubifex tubifex (Oligochaeta: Tubificidae) is the definitive host for the complex life-cycle parasite, Myxobolus cerebralis, the causative agent of salmonid whirling disease. We developed two hydrolysis probe-based qualitative real-time PCR (qPCR) multiplex assays that distinguish among tubificid taxa collected from the Madison River, Montana, USA. The first assay distinguishes T. tubifex from Rhyacodrilus spp.; while the second classifies T. tubifex identified by the first assay into two genetic lineages (I and III). Specificity and sensitivity were optimized for each assay; the two assays showed specificity of 94.3% and 98.6% for the target oligochaetes, respectively. DNA sequencing verified the results. The development of these assays allowed us to more fully describe tubificid community composition (the taxa and their abundance at a site) and estimate the relative abundances of host taxa. To relate tubificid relative abundance to fish disease risk, we determined M. cerebralis infection prevalence in samples identified as T. tubifex using similar molecular techniques. Given prior information (i.e., morphological identification of sexually mature worms), Bayesian analysis inferred that the first qPCR assay improved taxonomic identification. Bayesian inference of the relative abundance of T. tubifex, combined with infection assay results, identified sites with a high prevalence of infected T. tubifex. To our knowledge, this study represents both the first assessment of oligochaete community composition using a qPCR assay based on fluorescent probes and the first use of Bayesian analysis to fully characterize the dominant infected taxa in streams where whirling disease is observed.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).