Wildlife populations are under increasing pressure from a variety of threatening processes, ranging from climate change to habitat loss, that can incite a physiological stress response. The stress response influences immune function, with potential consequences for patterns of infection and transmission of disease among and within wildlife, domesticated animals and humans. This is concerning because stress may exacerbate the impact of disease on species vulnerable to extinction, with consequences for biodiversity conservation globally. Furthermore, stress may shape the role of wildlife in the spread of emerging infectious diseases (EID) such as Hendra virus (HeV) and Ebola virus. However, we still have a limited understanding of the influence of physiological stress on infectious disease in wildlife. We highlight key reasons why an improved understanding of the relationship between stress and wildlife disease could benefit conservation, and animal and public health, and discuss approaches for future investigation. In particular, we recommend that increased attention be given to the influence of anthropogenic stressors including climate change, habitat loss and management interventions on disease dynamics in wildlife populations.
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Vol. 43 • No. 1