Integrating biological processes across scales remains a central challenge in disease ecology. Genetic variation drives differences in host immune responses, which, along with environmental factors, generates temporal and spatial infection patterns in natural populations that epidemiologists seek to predict and control. However, genetics and immunology are typically studied in model systems, whereas population-level patterns of infection status and susceptibility are uniquely observable in nature. Despite obvious causal connections, organizational scales from genes to host outcomes to population patterns are rarely linked explicitly. Here we identify two loci near genes involved in macrophage (phagocyte) activation and pathogen degradation that additively increase risk of bovine tuberculosis infection by up to ninefold in wild African buffalo. Furthermore, we observe genotype-specific variation in IL-12 production indicative of variation in macrophage activation. Here, we provide measurable differences in infection resistance at multiple scales by characterizing the genetic and inflammatory variation driving patterns of infection in a wild mammal.
Tavalire, H. F., Hoal, E. G., Le Roex, N., Van Helden, P. D., Ezenwa, V. O., & Jolles, A. E. (2019). Risk alleles for tuberculosis infection associate with reduced immune reactivity in a wild mammalian host. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286(1907). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.0914