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Title: Endogenous Retrovirus Spillover and Potential Pandemic Implications as Analyzed Through the Paleoepidemiology of Cetacean Species
Authors: Harbers, Brigitte
Advisors: vonHoldt, Bridgett
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2022
Abstract: Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are inherited viral elements that have become permanently incorporated into the genomes of many mammalian species and thus provide ‘molecular fossils’ for studying the deep history of retroviruses. Marine mammals offer an interesting study system to trace historical patterns of host-switching for these ERVs, as unlike terrestrial mammals, they have an evolutionary history that is interrupted by a land to water transition. This land to water transition isolates marine mammals from terrestrial mammals thus differentiating ERV lineages shared through evolutionary history and ERV lineages shared due to spillover as a result of interspecies interactions. This project analyzes ERV sequences in twenty-five unique cetacean species to discuss the potential of ERV cross-species transmission by investigating ERV host switching following the land to water transition. Specifically, by creating a series of phylogenetic trees, the presence of ERVs in cetacean species can be compared to sequences in other marine mammal and terrestrial mammal species in order to determine the probability for host switching as a result of interspecies interactions as opposed to evolutionary links. These examples of host-switching are integral to understanding how ERVs could be cause of concern for public health as spillover, host switching events, and species-linked hubs have been the origin of past epidemics and pandemics, including the most recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1992-2022
Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2022

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