Project title: Molecular evolution and adaptation of ranavirus
Summary: The emergence of infectious disease with a broad host range can have a vast impact on populations and is a threat to biodiversity. In recent years, amphibians have experienced huge declines on a global level; one of the reasons for this are a group of pathogens belonging to the genus Ranavirus. Ranaviruses have the ability to infect a broad host range spanning fish, reptiles and amphibians, they are expanding to regions previously undetected and have a diverse range of viral species making them OIE notifiable pathogens. With lineages emerging across Europe, and the recent discovery of the capacity for subclinical infections, it is imperative that we understand more about these emerging pathogens.
Although ranaviruses have been identified as the cause of mortality events across the globe, understanding their host and geographical range is hampered by a lack of viral characterisation. Subclinical infections mean a reassessment of ranaviral prevalence, on the modes of transmission i.e. is the re-occurrence of ranaviruses each year due to long-standing cryptic infections, are they responsible for the spread of the virus globally, and viral characterisation i.e. are subclinical infections caused by new ranavirus species? The doctoral research proposed here will centre around these questions looking at carriers, both in the UK and in the animal trade, as well as generate new genomic data, on an unprecedented scale, that will provide the missing gaps needed to reconstruct the evolutionary history of jumps between species and localities.