Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections

Infographic about 1918 and 1918 Influenza pandemic in Europe and America

The objective of this programme is to integrate genetic, epidemiological and clinical data to gain insight on the key processes that determine the circulation of respiratory viruses in the population, and how they impact on their epidemiology, evolution and disease outcome.

Acute respiratory infections (ARIs) have a significant global impact on public health and the general economy due to their high morbidity and mortality. Different viruses are the causative agents of most ARIs, and in some cases are also responsible for emerging infections such as the 2009 influenza pandemic, as well as spillover events (zoonotic infections with no onward transmission), such as MERS-CoV and avian-origin influenza A viruses (H7N9 and H5N1).

The respiratory tract constitutes an ecological niche that can be simultaneously or sequentially infected with several pathogens. While co-infections have been associated with more severe disease, community ecology studies suggest that co-infection patterns are likely to be affected by pathogen interactions. These interactions can have significant impact on infection risk and thus can influence pathogen dynamics at the population scale with important implications for the design of intervention measures. For example if two viruses exhibit antagonistic interactions, control measures against one can increase the incidence of the other.

Understanding the ecology, epidemiology and evolution of respiratory viruses and identifying the viral factors that impact on the outcome of respiratory disease is central to:

  • improving patient management;
  • developing better diagnostic tools;
  • prioritizing pathogen specific surveillance and/or the development of vaccines and antiviral drugs;
  • assisting the design of intervention measures to control them; and
  • predicting the epidemiological impact of public health interventions.

To this end, it is important to apply a multi-pathogen approach that integrates the processes occurring within a single patient with those observed at the population scale.

Collaborating institutionsNHS West of Scotland Specialised Virology Centre and Health Protection Scotland (HPS)

Programme members

Pablo Murcia



Rob Gifford

Senior Research Fellow