Mike Boots

Research Expertise and Interest

ecology and epidemiology, evolution of infectious disease

Research Description

Mike Boots' research focuses on the ecology/epidemiology and evolution of infectious disease. Parasites and pathogens continue to cause a major burden to human health, cause significant damage in agriculture, and are ubiquitous in nature. The overall aim is to understand the evolution of parasites, of host defense and how infectious organisms spread, persist and affect their host populations. They use a combination of evolutionary theory, experimental host-parasite systems, epidemiological models of wildlife and human tropical disease, and field entomology.  

Their general theory and experiments concentrate on the role of ecology in the generation and maintenance of diversity in hosts and parasites, the impact of spatial structure on their evolution, and the implications of tolerance in contrast to resistance to infectious disease. They are increasingly interested in applying their evolutionary theory to the management of human and agricultural disease.  In addition, they focus on a number of specific disease systems: Squirrel poxvirus; Social networks and TB in Badgers; TB in Wild boar populations; Honeybee varroa mite virus interactions; Dengue and emerging tropical viruses; Human and Avian Malaria. 

In the News

AAAS Adds Ten New Fellows From UC Berkeley

Ten members of the UC Berkeley community – including nine faculty and one staff member — have been elected American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellows, one of the most distinctive honors within the scientific community.

Coronavirus outbreak raises question: Why are bat viruses so deadly?

It’s no coincidence that some of the worst viral disease outbreaks in recent years — SARS, MERS, Ebola, Marburg and likely the newly arrived 2019-nCoV virus — originated in bats. A new University of California, Berkeley, study finds that bats’ fierce immune response to viruses could drive viruses to replicate faster, so that when they jump to mammals with average immune systems, such as humans, the viruses wreak deadly havoc.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
February 14, 2020
Jeevan Biswas
Amid speculation that the new coronavirus, like SARS and MERS, may have incubated in bats, a new Berkeley study suggests that it's the animal's immune response that's to blame for making it such an amenable host for deadly viruses. According to the researchers, the bat's immune system protects itself from infections while promoting the virus's replication and evolution. When the virus jumps from bats to hosts with weaker immune systems, the virus is devastating. "The bottom line is that bats are potentially special when it comes to hosting viruses," says integrative biology professor Mike Boots, one of the study's co-authors. "Some bats are able to mount this robust antiviral response, but also balance it with an anti-inflammation response," says postdoctoral fellow Cara Brook, the study's first author. "When you have a higher immune response, you get these cells that are protected from infection, so the virus can actually ramp up its replication rate without causing damage to its host," she says. "But when it spills over into something like a human, we don't have those same sorts of antiviral mechanism, and we could experience a lot of pathology." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News.
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