Genetics & Epidemiology

The increasing availability and practicality of acquiring genetic data has revealed a multitude of ways in which genetic analysis can be applied to answer epidemiological questions – from individual risk genetic risk factors, to landscape level population genetics!

Since the discovery of CWD in Wisconsin in 2002, the Samuel lab has used genetic analysis to enhance our understanding of basic CWD ecology, and inform theoretical models of disease dynamics.  Here are a few of the highlights…

Gene sequencing shows variation in disease susceptibility

PRNP variation impacts disease dynamics and potential disease-driven natural selection.


Genetic data aids outbreak investigation

Where did a new disease come from? How long was the infectious animal on the landscape? Genetic answers…


Genetic measures reveal subtle   disease impacts

Parentage assignment show differential vulnerability of fawns with CWD+ vs CWD- mothers.


Genetic data relates to complex transmission dynamics

Kin group structure has major impacts on CWD transmission.


Landscape genetics help map routes of potential disease spread

Landscape genetics show populations structure and potential variation in contact rates across the landscape.


 Information is also available through the USGS genetic epidemiology pages.

One of our invaluable student technicians works tirelessly extracting a few of the 5000+ deer samples we’ve genotyped.

How daunting is it for a number-crunching lab group to expand into the realm of DNA-crunching?  It might be more realistic than you think!  We started a decade ago with expertise and technology borrowed from our friends at Michigan State University, eventually we moved to a single thermocyler in a storage room, now with the support of the UW Biotechnology Center, our lab has progressed to developing novel markers and efficiently processing thousands of samples.  So, if your research calls for genetic data – don’t be afraid to dream big and look for lots of helpful collaborators.