Can Parasitology Ride the Rising Star of Disease Ecology?

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An article in the current issue of The Journal of Parasitology studied the increasing popularity of disease ecology. The findings of the study suggested that disease ecology could help improve teaching, encourage collaboration, increase funding, and recruit more students to the field of parasitology.

Vol. 102 Issue 4 (August 2016)

. . .we hope that we have illustrated the possible benefits and opportunities that could result from greater cooperation and interaction between these currently relatively separate areas

The Journal of Parasitology – With a shared focus on host–pathogen relationships, parasitology and disease ecology seem to have a lot in common. But parasitology lacks the eye-catching—and wallet-opening—emphasis on known diseases. By working more closely with disease ecologists, could parasitologists gain more support for work crucial to predicting and controlling infectious diseases?

The authors of an article published in the current issue of The Journal of Parasitology believe they can. The researchers studied the increasing popularity of disease ecology, looking at publications, research funding, jobs, and undergraduate courses. The findings of the study suggested that disease ecology could help improve teaching, encourage collaboration, increase funding, and recruit more students to parasitology.

Disease ecology intertwines with disciplines such as microbiology to ask how hosts and disease-causing organisms interact and are affected by environment, evolution, and other factors. Parasitologists are often asking the same questions, but they typically study pathogens and hosts that are not as clearly linked to known diseases.

The authors argue that better integration of disease ecology and parasitology is critical to the future success of both fields. In the article, the authors focus on two topics that could benefit combining the two areas of study: how pathogens affect the life history of hosts and how disease caused by multiple species can be managed effectively. The authors also outlined several parasite-related topics that are currently being studied by disease ecologists and could benefit from collaboration between the two disciplines.

“Because the fields of parasitology and disease ecology have many common interests and complementary approaches, and enhanced integration is increasingly critical for the prediction and control of infectious diseases, we hope that we have illustrated the possible benefits and opportunities that could result from greater cooperation and interaction between these currently relatively separate areas,” said Janet Koprivnikar, an author from this study.

The authors conclude that educators and researchers need to communicate more openly, not only with one another but also with students and trainees. After all, it’s always best when scientific discoveries are broadly shared, as the work could greatly benefit from the input of researchers in other fields.

Full text of the article, “The Rise of Disease Ecology and Its Implications for Parasitology,” The Journal of Parasitology, Vol. 102, No. 4, 2016, is available at http://www.journalofparasitology.org/doi/full/10.1645/15-942.

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About The Journal of Parasitology

The Journal of Parasitology is the official journal of the American Society of Parasitologists (ASP). The journal reports on all aspects of animal and human parasites and is widely recognized for publishing content that has a long-term impact on the field of parasitology. The journal is intended for all with interests in basic or applied aspects of general, veterinary, medical parasitology, and epidemiology. For more information about the journal or society, see http://www.journalofparasitology.org.

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Jacob Frese
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