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PLOS Science Wednesday: Hi Reddit, we are Lisa Jones-Engel, Stacey Schultz-Cherry, and Christopher Small. We published a study in PLOS Pathogens demonstrating new evidence of the role of primates in th
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Hi Reddit, My name is Lisa Jones-Engel and I am a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Washington. For nearly two decades my research team has focused on the infectious agents that are transmitted at the increasingly porous human-primate interface in Asia. And my name is Stacey Schultz-Cherry and I am a Full Member (Professor) at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital where my research focuses on the pathogenesis of influenza virus and enteric viruses, like Astroviruses, especially in high-risk populations. My name is Erik Karlsson and I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital where my research focuses on host factors, especially nutrition, that affect the pathogenesis and evolution of influenza virus and enteric viruses. My name is Christopher Small and I am the Head Data Scientist at pol.is a startup applying data visualization and machine learning to making sense of large scale conversations. I also do distributed systems and web app development consulting as ThoughtNode Software. Before all that, I worked with Erick Matsen at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, studying metagenomics and molecular viral epidemiology. Astroviruses are leading causes of diarrhea in children under the age of 2, immune-compromised populations and the elderly. You can get them from infected people but also through contaminated food and water. They also appear to be causing encephalitis in high-risk populations. Although we knew that Astroviruses were found in lots of different birds and animals, we never thought human viruses could infect animals or vice versa. We thought infections were species-specific (i.e. only human viruses could infect humans). That changed in 2009 when we began finding viruses in humans that were genetically more similar to animal viruses. That’s where our recent publication titled “Non-Human Primates Harbor Diverse Mammalian and Avian Astroviruses Including Those Associated with Human Infections” in PLOS Pathogens provided important new data. For the study, we sampled 879 urban, temple, captive and wild primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia. We found that 8% of primates were infected with diverse mammalian and avian Astroviruses, including those previously only known to infect humans. Clearly this exemplifies One Health and how infectious diseases of humans can impact animals we contact and potentially vice versa. We will be answering your questions about primates and Astroviruses at 1pm ET – Ask Us Anything!