Dispersal and land cover contribute to pseudorabies virus exposure in invasive wild pigs.
We investigated the landscape epidemiology of a globally distributed mammal, the wild pig (Sus scrofa), in Florida (U.S.), where it is considered an invasive species and reservoir to pathogens that impact the health of people, domestic animals, and wildlife. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that two commonly cited factors in disease transmission, connectivity among populations and abundant resources, would increase the likelihood of exposure to both pseudorabies virus (PrV) and Brucella spp. (bacterial agent of brucellosis) in wild pigs across the Kissimmee Valley of Florida. Using DNA from 348 wild pigs and sera from 320 individuals at 24 sites, we employed population genetic techniques to infer individual dispersal, and an Akaike information criterion framework to compare candidate logistic regression models that incorporated both dispersal and land cover composition. Our findings suggested that recent dispersal conferred higher odds of exposure to PrV, but not Brucella spp., among wild pigs throughout the Kissimmee Valley region. Odds of exposure also increased in association with agriculture and open canopy pine, prairie, and scrub habitats, likely because of highly localized resources within those land cover types. Because the effect of open canopy on PrV exposure reversed when agricultural cover was available, we suggest that small-scale resource distribution may be more important than overall resource abundance. Our results underscore the importance of studying and managing disease dynamics through multiple processes and spatial scales, particularly for non-native pathogens that threaten wildlife conservation, economy, and public health.