Mechanisms and mitigation effects of light pollution on West Nile virus dynamics

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

S1-10  Mon Jan 4 17:00 – 17:30  Mechanisms and mitigation: effects of light pollution on West Nile virus dynamics Kernbach, ME*; Martin, LB; Unnasch, TR; Hall, RJ; Jiang, RHY; Francis, CD; University of South Florida; University of South Florida; University of South Florida; University of Georgia; University of South Florida; California Polytechnic State University

As light pollution increases in spatial and spectral extent, understanding its widespread consequences for wildlife is more important now than ever. One form of light pollution, artificial light at night (ALAN), dysregulates hormones, hinders immunity, and shifts circadian activity. Therefore, it is surprising that the effects of ALAN on zoonotic diseases, especially those that utilize passerine reservoirs, remain unknown. One of the most important passerine-harbored zoonotic diseases, West Nile virus (WNV), has been linked to properties of peri-urban environments. However, the role of light pollution in this context has never been considered. ALAN-altered host immune responses, combined with effects on vector behavior, may alter transmission potential in such habitats. Previously, we found that house sparrows exposed to low-intensity ALAN maintained infectious WNV titers for longer than controls, which increased outbreak potential. We asked whether these effects manifest ecologically using Florida Department of Health sentinel chicken surveillance data (quantified by WNV antibody seroconversion) and tested the predictive power of multiple environmental parameters on WNV exposure risk. We found that light pollution (as a quadratic function) was a stronger predictor of WNV exposure risk than other measures of urbanization, where cases peak in areas of low-intensity light pollution and decrease in areas of high-intensity light pollution. These data indicate that heterogeneity in ALAN intensity likely an important driver of spatial variation in WNV emergence.

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