Warwick has been awarded over £5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be a part of the global effort to reduce the burden of infectious diseases amongst the poorest billion in the world.
The focus of the grant will be neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a diverse group of infections which thrive mainly among the poorest populations of the world. These NTDs perpetuate the cycle of poverty and cause long-term suffering to millions. In recent years there has been a huge international investment to prevent additional morbidity through the control and elimination of many of these diseases and the World Health Organization has set ambitious targets for eliminating much of the burden of these diseases by 2020.
Analysis of historic Ebola outbreaks
Thomas House has just published an analysis of previous Ebola outbreaks in eLife.
This analysis showed a fast rate of new outbreaks, and significant variability in case fatality ratios between strains. Initially, the results on transmissibility of Ebola suggested that the current outbreak could be viewed as a rare event within the pattern of previous epidemics.
As the numbers infected continue to rise, this becomes less and less likely, and it seems that something more fundamental has changed - see the accompanying press resease for more comment.
"A dynamic model of bovine tuberculosis spread and control in Great Britain", by Ellen Brooks Pollock, Gareth Roberts and Matt Keeling, published in Nature Wednesday 2nd July.
Finally, after many years of study, we've finally got the bTB modelling paper into Nature. We've also
Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most complex, persistent and controversial problems facing the British cattle industry, costing the country an estimated £100 million per year. The low sensitivity of the standard diagnostic test leads to considerable ambiguity in determining the main transmission routes of infection, which exacerbates the continuing scientific debate. In turn this uncertainty fuels the fierce public and political disputes on the necessity of controlling badgers to limit the spread of infection. Here we present a dynamic stochastic spatial model for bovine TB in Great Britain that combines within-farm and between-farm transmission. At the farm scale the model incorporates stochastic transmission of infection, maintenance of infection in the environment and a testing protocol that mimics historical government policy. Between-farm transmission has a short-range environmental component and is explicitly driven by movements of individual cattle between farms, as recorded in the Cattle Tracing System2. The resultant model replicates the observed annual increase of infection over time as well as the spread of infection into new areas. Given that our model is mechanistic, it can ascribe transmission pathways to each new case; the majority of newly detected cases involve several transmission routes with moving infected cattle, reinfection from an environmental reservoir and poor sensitivity of the diagnostic test all having substantive roles. This underpins our findings on the implications of control measures. Very few of the control options tested have the potential to reverse the observed annual increase, with only intensive strategies such as whole-herd culling or additional national testing proving highly effective, whereas controls focused on a single transmission route are unlikely to be highly effective.
PhD students, moving on, moving up
Three of our PhD students are moving on to bigger and hopefully better things in the next few weeks.
Dan Franklin has submitted his thesis, and has just begun a one-year DEFRA-funded PDRA with Matt Keeling & Samik Datta, looking at novel pests and parasites of honey-bees. This is in collabortion with FERA and should have rapid impact on bee health and control.
Kat Rock has recently had a successful viva and has completed her minor corrections. Kat has just started a 2-month contract working with Deirdre Hollingsworth performing an in-depth review of mathematical modelling of visceral leishmaniasis. We hope that this is just a stop-gap before longer-range funding comes through for detailed modelling of HAT.
Matt Graham is just about to take up a PDRA position at Johns Hopkins University, looking at models of measles and rubella infection. This looks an exciting opportunity to work in a superb group in the USA.
Deirdre Hollingsworth, along with collaborators from Imperial, Zurich and Montpellier, has just published a review of HIV infection from an evolutionary perspective.
Fraser, Lythgoe, Leventhal, Shirreff, Hollingsworth, Alizon and Bonhoeffer (2013) Virulence and Pathogenesis of HIV-1 Infection: An Evolutionary Perspective. Science 343 6177.
Researchers from CMMID at the London School are coming to Warwick on 27th for a chat and get to know you session.
The meeting will be held in the Complexity meeting room in Maths, starting at 11 and continuing into the pub.
We estimate 17 from CCMID and a similar number from WIDER. The plan is to have very brief 5-10 minute talks from everyone to introduce themselves to the group, with plenty of time for discussions over lunch and coffee.