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Exploring and mitigating plague for One Health purposes

September 2, 2022

Purpose of Review

In 2020, the Appropriations Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives directed the CDC to develop a national One Health framework to combat zoonotic diseases, including sylvatic plague, which is caused by the flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis. This review builds upon that multisectoral objective. We aim to increase awareness of Y. pestis and to highlight examples of plague mitigation for One Health purposes (i.e., to achieve optimal health outcomes for people, animals, plants, and their shared environment). We draw primarily upon examples from the USA, but also discuss research from Madagascar and Uganda where relevant, as Y. pestis has emerged as a zoonotic threat in those foci.

Recent Findings

Historically, the bulk of plague research has been directed at the disease in humans. This is not surprising, given that Y. pestis is a scourge of human history. Nevertheless, the ecology of Y. pestis is inextricably linked to other mammals and fleas under natural conditions. Accumulating evidence demonstrates Y. pestis is an unrelenting threat to multiple ecosystems, where the bacterium is capable of significantly reducing native species abundance and diversity while altering competitive and trophic relationships, food web connections, and nutrient cycles. In doing so, Y. pestis transforms ecosystems, causing “shifting baselines syndrome” in humans, where there is a gradual shift in the accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment. Eradication of Y. pestis in nature is difficult to impossible, but effective mitigation is achievable; we discuss flea vector control and One Health implications in this context.


There is an acute need to rapidly expand research on Y. pestis, across multiple host and flea species and varied ecosystems of the Western US and abroad, for human and environmental health purposes. The fate of many wildlife species hangs in the balance, and the implications for humans are profound in some regions. Collaborative multisectoral research is needed to define the scope of the problem in each epidemiological context and to identify, refine, and implement appropriate and effective mitigation practices.

Publication Year 2022
Title Exploring and mitigating plague for One Health purposes
DOI 10.1007/s40475-022-00265-6
Authors David A. Eads, Dean E. Biggins, Jeffrey Wimsatt, Rebecca J. Eisen, B. Joseph Hinnebusch, Marc R. Matchett, Amanda R. Goldberg, Travis Livieri, Gregory Hacker, Mark Novak, Danielle Buttke, Shaun M. Grassel, John Hughes-Clarke, Linda Atiku
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Current Tropical Medicine Reports
Index ID 70236453
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center