Computational analysis of innate immune regulation pathways in mallards

Computational analysis of innate immune regulation pathways in mallards

The immune system of birds is adapted very well to several pathogens (e.g. Salmonella, avian influenza) that can be transmitted to humans and are potentially lethal. So far, studies on the immune system have been done in laboratories under controlled conditions. But in wild environments conditions are a lot more unpredictable. Changes in weather, food availability and threat by predators are challenging the animals in different ways. Therefore, we aim to mimic infections with these pathogens to study the immune responses at an individual level in the wild.

The aim of my study is to investigate the innate immune regulatory pathways of the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) after treatment with substances mimicking Salmonella, avian influenza, and Staphylococcus aureus.

In the first step I will use transcriptome data from blood samples to find out which pathways are up regulated or down regulated; and if they are regulated, at which time point of the immune reaction. Second, I will ask if these patterns are similar to the patterns found in mallards infected with real pathogens. I will further assess the distinguishability of the immune responses to the specific substances with the aim to predict which pathogen infected the individual based on the transcriptome data. There is an ongoing discussion whether immune response is a cost to organisms. I want to see if there is also down regulation of pathways that are not related directly to the immune system as a cost to the organism. So far it is also not known what makes birds resistant to these pathogens that are lethal for humans. For this purpose I want to compare the immune responses of mammals and mallards.

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