Epidemiology, ecology and population genetics

In recent years, our mathematicians have worked on some particularly novel projects in ecology, epidemiology and population genetics. Some of these projects highlight the importance of the overlaps of the three areas.

Environmentally driven disease

Close up of a virus

This project led by Stefan Klus, David Lloyd and Naratip Santitissadeekorn focuses on understanding the link between environmental and environmentally driven diseases such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. These types of diseases have little human to human transmission and there is less understanding about how to model them.

This study aims to use a combination of mathematical data science methods, mechanistic modelling, and Bayesian statistics to develop a better understanding of the disease burden and inform public health planning.

The project is a collaboration with Dr Gianni Lo Iacono (School of Veterinary Medicine, Surrey), Professor Gordon Nichols (Public Health England), and Dr Christophe Sarran (Met Office).

Zoonotic transmission of intestinal parasites

Birds eye view of houses in the Philippines

Intestinal helminths are highly prevalent infections in humans, particularly in rural and poor urban areas of low and middle income countries. Infections are widespread and contribute significantly to the global burden of disease.

This project focuses on developing mathematical models for the transmission of intestinal parasites and public health implications. Led by academics at the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Surrey, University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB) and University of the Philippines, Manila (UPM) the project team will carry out field work in Mindanao, the Philippines.

In terms of mathematics, David Lloyd will lead on developing susceptible-infected-recovered type models to help understand the transmission and public health planning.

Anti-microbial resistance in time and space

dog owner's wellbeing

This project, led by Gianne Derks, focuses on animal-human-environment and extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs) transfers, initiated via the EPSRC funded Collaborative Hub for Advancing Interdisciplinary Research (CHAIR). ESBLs are enzymes produced by bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E.coli) and Klebsiella, which can be found in humans, animals and the environment and have been extensively researched in each field. They can be resistant to a range of frequently used antibiotics.

This proof-of-concept study aims to use readily available data from various fields, eg. GP data, vet practice data, climate data and geographical data, and combine this to answer the main question: How do ESBLs transfer between animals-human and environment? The project will advance towards high level model construction for the modelling to identify significant contributing drivers for ESBL transfer. Follow up studies are planned to investigate specific drivers in more detail.

Genetics of rapidly growing populations

Crowd of people walking in city

Mathematical models for the change of allele frequencies over time have played a central role in the development of population genetics over the last century and continue to be of critical importance in the genomic era. However, analysis of these models has rarely ventured beyond the case of populations of constant size, despite the obvious relevance of exponential growth to human genetics.

This project, led by Mark Roberts, is revealing that properties of allele frequencies predicted by constant population models, and which are often regarded as fundamental by geneticists, do not hold for populations that are growing exponentially. Potential areas of applications include genetic diversity, genetic epidemiology, genetic archaeology, and evolution. Current collaborators include Patricia Lund (Coventry University) and Peter Nabutanyi (Dar Es Salaam, Bielefeld).

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