Aaron Morris: Biodiversity in the spread of Disease Bacteria: The Buruli Ulcer

Researcher: Aaron Morris

Many exciting research projects at Bournemouth University are conducted by students themselves. One such example is PhD student Aaron Morris’ study on the role of biodiversity in the spread of diseases, specifically the Buruli ulcer, in humans.

Biodiversity loss is perhaps the greatest and most unpredictable driving force of potential future ecological disasters, with wide ranging implications for ecosystem services.  Whilst understudied, recent publications suggest it also plays a crucial role in the transmission and prevalence of diseases.

The PhD study carried out by Aaron Morris focuses on how changes in biodiversity are affecting the spread of an emerging bacterial infection in humans – the Buruli ulcer.

Buruli ulcer is a devastating disease, which affects thousands of people every year, mainly in developing countries, causing fatality or permanent disability. Whilst the route of transmission to humans remains unknown, there is strong evidence to suggest it is heavily linked to increases in agriculture and the loss of biodiversity in aquatic environments.

Aaron’s research looks to provide analysis of biodiversity in these environments to build up highly detailed accounts of variation in biodiversity and its relationship to the Buruli ulcer. This will potentially shed light on infection routes and enable the predictive modelling of areas at risk, aiding in the prevention of spreading.

Aaron is currently working on samples collected from a recent field trip to French Guiana in a bid to find an area where the bacteria are prevalent.

As well as this, work has begun analysing weather patterns and disease incidence in the hope that links can be created between biodiversity and the disease – helping to increase knowledge of the disease and hopefully pave the way for a study into the prevention of this disease in the future.

If you would like to follow Aaron’s progress with this study then regular updates are posted on the website: www.expeditionguiana.wordpress.com.