Epidemiology and evolutionary dynamics
Research in this programme is conducted through an integrated approach that is facilitated by the combination of expertise within the CVR, encompassing mathematical modellers, computer programmers, veterinary scientists, biologists and ecologists. It is becoming increasingly clear that an effective understanding of how virus evolution impacts on epidemiological dynamics at the host population scale, can only really be obtained by considering micro-evolutionary dynamics at smaller scales. In collaboration with scientists at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) and INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research) we are developing the use of pyro-sequencing to estimate both the viral mutation rate and the selective forces responsible for higher frequency polymorphisms. We are now poised to investigate how viral diversity is maintained and transmitted during serial transmission, focusing on the viral population genetic consequences of the bottleneck imposed by transmission.
The mutation process that impacts ultimately on global human and animal epidemiology, occurs within individual host cells, and is subject to various forms of selection and a series of complex transmission population bottlenecks as the new mutants drive dynamics that we can observe across a hierarchy of scales. By using new Bayesian state-space approaches to data analysis that facilitate the fitting of more complex and informative models, and full genome sequencing technologies to extend viral population sampling, it is now possible characterize viral population genetics over the course of large scale outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) in 2007. This programme studies the micro-evolutionary dynamics of viruses, and how this information can be used to understand aspects of disease transmission and control. Currently funded research topics include FMDV, bluetongue virus (BTV), avian influenza and rabies.