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Transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils: localized lineage replacement and host population response


Hamede, RK and Pearse, A-M and Swift, K and Barmuta, LA and Murchison, EP and Jones, ME, Transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils: localized lineage replacement and host population response, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282, (1814) Article 20151468. ISSN 0962-8452 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2015 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.1468


Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a clonally transmissible cancer threatening the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) with extinction. Live cancer cells are the infectious agent, transmitted to new hosts when individuals bite each other. Over the 18 years since DFTD was first observed, distinct genetic and karyotypic sublineages have evolved. In this longitudinal study, we investigate the associations between tumour karyotype, epidemic patterns and host demographic response to the disease. Reduced host population effects and low DFTD infection rates were associated with high prevalence of tetraploid tumours. Subsequent replacement by a diploid variant of DFTD coincided with a rapid increase in disease prevalence, population decline and reduced mean age of the population. Our results suggest a role for tumour genetics in DFTD transmission dynamics and epidemic outcome. Future research, for this and other highly pathogenic emerging infectious diseases, should focus on understanding the evolution of host and pathogen genotypes, their effects on susceptibility and tolerance to infection, and their implications for designing novel genetic management strategies. This study provides evidence for a rapid localized lineage replacement occurring within a transmissible cancer epidemic and highlights the possibility that distinct DFTD genetic lineages may harbour traits that influence pathogen fitness.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Tasmanian devil, disease ecology, cancer evolution, aneuploidy
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Host-parasite interactions
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments
UTAS Author:Hamede, RK (Dr Rodrigo Hamede Ross)
UTAS Author:Barmuta, LA (Associate Professor Leon Barmuta)
UTAS Author:Jones, ME (Professor Menna Jones)
ID Code:102973
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:34
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2015-09-14
Last Modified:2017-11-01

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