Programmes Emerging Infections
What are we doing?
We are working to understand the underlying processes that drive the emergence and spread of human infectious diseases. Our goal is to develop new medical therapies to cure chronic viral infections.
Why is it important?
New infections still present a threat to humanity. Novel pathogens often infect humans, but it is not yet well understood why only some pathogens acquire the ability to spread efficiently to other humans. With greater insight into how infections spread across populations, we can improve our progress in developing new and effective treatments to cure infectious disease.
How are we different?
We use both experimental and modelling work to learn about how viruses evolve and spread. By combining mathematical modelling with clinical practice to examine pathogen behaviour, we are better able to anticipate and prepare for the challenges posed by novel infections. As ever more anti-viral drugs are being approved and new, cheap ways of reading host and virus gene sequences let us “watch” as events unfold inside infected people, it becomes possible to permanently clear infection and so cure patients. We will use this better understanding of viral clearance to develop therapies that are tailored to individual patients.
Curing chronic viral infections: focusing on Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV, which infect at least 200 million people worldwide, we aim to develop individually-tailored therapies to clear viral infections from chronically-infected patients. Clearing a chronic viral infection means completely controlling the infection so that even without taking drugs the virus does not grow back. Through our access to large databases and biological samples of infected patients, genetic and mathematical modelling expertise, and new analytic tools, we aim to inform the development of directly-acting antiviral drugs that will herald a transformation in the treatment of HCV- and HIV-infected patients worldwide.
The fight against Hepatitis C: we use experimental and modelling work to explore questions such as 'What role does mutation to evade host immune responses play in adaptation to individual hosts?' and 'How will such mutations impact upon the emerging HCV epidemic?'
Understanding Influenza: we use mathematical models of the spread and control of influenza to address questions such as 'Several methods for the control of the spread of infection are available, but how are they best used?', 'How do logistic constraints impose planning for disease control?' and 'What kinds of scenarios should contingency plans encompass?'
HIV - from infection to cure? We use experimental and modelling work to explore the forces that drive the survival of new variants of HIV; to examine how HIV evolves as it passes from one host to another; to examine whether HIV is adapting to its new human host population; and whether we expect such adaptation to lead to more benign or more severe disease?