Predator–prey interactions present heightened opportunities for pathogen spillover, as predators are at risk of exposure to infectious agents harbored by prey. Epizootics with high morbidity and mortality have been recorded following prey-to-predator spillover events, which have had significant conservation implications for sensitive species. Using felids as a detailed case study, we have documented both virulent and clinically silent infections in apex predators following transfer of microbes from prey. We draw on these examples and others to examine the mechanisms that determine frequency and outcome of predator exposure to prey-based pathogens. We propose that predator–prey dynamics should be more thoroughly considered in empirical research and disease dynamic modeling approaches in order to reveal answers to outstanding questions relating to pathogen bioaccumulation.
Read the full article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.