Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Human-Wildlife Interface
Dr. Alexander researches how human behavior can influence the emergence of infectious disease in humans and animals, particularly in Africa.
In Africa, a major consequence of the immunosuppressive effects of HIV infections in humans has been the dramatic rise in secondary infections, such as malaria and tuberculosis, which cause significant human mortality, as well as possibly allowing new diseases, such as those caused by Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg viruses, to invade humans from wildlife. Dr. Alexander has established a field laboratory in northern Botswana, which has both molecular genetics and bacteriological investigation capacity. Here, she studies the interactions between humans and local wildlife (including African dogs, elephants, lions, and the banded mongoose) that can lead to disease transmission. Her research program is directed to explore and understand the factors that influence the emergence and persistence of emerging and re-emerging diseases at the human-wildlife environmental interface. It embraces a systems biology approach to ecosystem health integrated with public health, beginning within host-pathogen dynamics and extending to the livelihoods of communities living with wildlife. This includes the impact of culture and behavior, gender dimensions, climate change, ecosystem function, and local communities themselves, on infectious disease dynamics. The overall goal is to increase the ability to manage and maintain healthy ecosystems that support both biodiversity and human populations.