Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for bubonic and pneumonic plague in humans, also causes disease in rodents like deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). The western United States has one of the largest concentrations of plague in the modern world, and this study set out to model Y. pestis infections occurring in the region not only in the wild but also domestic animals. Using 95,000 GBIF-mediated occurrences combined with confirmed animal plague cases, researchers created models of potential disease reservoirs and found that the most important factors in predicting infection outbreaks are the presence of deer mouse, altitude, precipitation and proximity to developed land. These results may prove useful in highlighting geographic areas at high risk for transmission of plague from animals to humans.
Walsh M and Haseeb M (2015) Modeling the ecologic niche of plague in sylvan and domestic animal hosts to delineate sources of human exposure in the western United States. PeerJ. PeerJ, e1493. Available at doi:10.7717/peerj.1493.