Trypanosoma cruzi, agent of Chagas disease
T. cruzi is a vector-borne protozoan parasite capable of infecting a wide range of mammalian hosts throughout the Americas. Spillover from wildlife in sylvatic transmission cycles results in local transmission to humans, domestic dogs, and non-human primates (NHPs). The most common manifestation of Chagas disease is an infectious myocarditis leading to acute or chronic heart failure, with gastrointestinal megasyndromes being less common, and many infected hosts may remain asymptomatic.
Mammalian Reservoirs of T. cruzi in the US
The overall goals of this project are to evaluate and compare the T. cruzi reservoir status of wild and domestic mammal species in the southern US and to determine associations between host species and parasite discrete typing units that result in variation in clinical disease outcome.
Pathology of T. cruzi in wildlife reservoirs
Chagas disease is well-described in humans, nonhuman primates, and domestic dogs, while pathologic effects in wildlife reservoirs are relatively understudied. I am investigating the pathology of T. cruzi infection in a number of naturally-infected wildlife species. Results from this research were presented at the Wildlife Disease Association annual meeting in July 2017 in Chiapas, Mexico, and a manuscript is in preparation.
- Strain types and pathology of T. cruzi infection in coyotes and raccoons. In prep.
Ecology of T. cruzi at non-human primate centers
Natural infection with T. cruzi in non-human primates (NHPs) housed with outdoor access in the southern US has been reported since the 1970s, but many factors related to transmission of T. cruzi at NHP facilities remain poorly characterized. My research focuses on these unanswered questions and aims to identify targets for interventions to block transmission.
- Lack of T. cruzi infection in rats at an NHP facility
- T. cruzi epidemiology at a Texas non-human primate facility: wildlife, bugs, primates. In prep.
Novel poxvirus in Texas rodents
Pathologic and molecular investigation of proliferative lesions discovered incidentally on wild-caught rodents has led to the identification of an apparently novel poxvirus. The results of this exciting collaboration with Jessica Light in TAMU’s WFSC department and individuals at the Centers for Disease Control were presented at the American College of Veterinary Pathologists 2016 conference and a manuscript is in preparation.
- Pathological and molecular characterization of a novel poxvirus in wild mice in Texas. In prep.
Pathology case reports
As a veterinary pathologist, I perform necropsy duty for the diagnostic pathology service of the TAMU veterinary teaching hospital. Some especially interesting cases warrant additional investigation and write-up for publication.