Group leader: Prof Christl Donnelly and Dr Simon Cauchemez
We use statistical principles and tools to tackle epidemiological challenges.
We develop and seek to answer interesting and important questions like how common diseases are, which groups are most likely to be affected and how transmission might be best controlled. In doing so, we collaborate with a wide range of colleagues including physicians, public health professionals, ecologists, veterinarians, field workers, laboratory scientists, mathematicians and economists.
We are members of the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling. Current topics of interest for our research group include: Influenza; TB in Cattle and Badgers; Rabies and Distemper; Surveillance and Policy Evaluation.
- Prof Christl Donnelly, head of group
- Dr Simon Cauchemez, head of group
- Dr Tini Garske, MRC-funded
- Dr Deirdre Hollingsworth, Imperial College Junior Research Fellow
- Dr Artemis Koukounari, MRC-funded research fellow
- Dr Pierre Nouvellet, EU-funded
- Peter Winskill, BBSRC-funded postgraduate student (industrial CASE studentship in partnership with Oxitec Ltd.) studying the use and evaluation of transgenic insects to control vector-borne diseases
- Picha Suwannahitatorn, Thai government-funded postgraduate student
Nick Beckley, NERC-funded postgraduate student studying Mycobacterium bovis-infected badger populations
- TB in Cattle and Badgers
- Real-time analysis of outbreaks (including H1N1 pandemic influenza, SARS and FMD)
- Surveillance and Policy Evaluation
- The influence of climate and ecology on infectious disease epidemiology
- Evaluation of Interventions and Diagnostics of Neglected Tropical Diseases
- Rabies and Distemper
Research on outbreaks of novel and emerging infectious diseases (such as H1N1 pandemic influenza, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, and Foot and Mouth Disease, FMD) is an important focus of statistical epidemiology research.
H1N1 Pandemic Influenza
In 2009 members of the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling worked together to provide timely and robust epidemiological assessments of the H1N1 pandemic as it unfolded. The first stage of the work was within the context of the WHO Rapid Pandemic Assessment Collaboration and resulted in a paper published online in Science on the 14th of May 2009:
Fraser C†, Donnelly CA†, Cauchemez S, Hanage WP, Van Kerkhove MD, Hollingsworth TD, Griffin J, Baggaley RF, Jenkins HE, Lyons EJ, Jombart T, Hinsley WR, Grassly NC, Balloux F, Ghani AC, Ferguson NM, Rambaut A, Pybus OG, Lopez-Gatell H, Alpuche-Aranda CM, Chapela IB, Zavala EP, Guevara DME, Checchi F, Garcia E, Hugonnet S, Roth C: The WHO Rapid Pandemic Assessment Collaboration. Pandemic Potential of a Strain of Influenza A (H1N1): Early Findings. Science 324, 1557-1561, 2009. (†These authors contributed equally to the work.) DOI:10.1126/science.1176062.
Members of the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling provided scientific advice in both national and international settings. Here is a paper on the challenges which arise in the assessment of severity of a new influenza virus.
Garske T, Legrand J, Donnelly CA, Ward H, Cauchemez S, Fraser C, Ferguson NM and Ghani AC. Assessing the severity of the novel influenza A/H1N1 pandemic. BMJ 339, 220-224, 2009. Published 14 July 2009, doi:10.1136/bmj.b2840
Neil Ferguson, Simon Cauchemez, Christl Donnelly and Christophe Fraser all visited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the pandemic. Here is a paper describing the results of one of the collaborative projects developed during these visits:
Cauchemez S, Donnelly CA, Reed C, Ghani AC, Fraser C, Kent CK, Finelli L and Ferguson NM. Transmission of novel Influenza A(H1N1) virus in households in the USA. New England Journal of Medicine 361, 2619-27, 2009.
In 2003 Christl Donnelly and colleagues (including Roy Anderson, Neil Ferguson, Christophe Fraser and Azra Ghani) closely collaborated with colleagues from Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong to analyse the Hong Kong SARS epidemic as it unfolded.
Subsequently, Roy Anderson and Christl Donnelly were joint coordinators of the EU-funded SARSTrans project. The full project title was: SARSTRANS: Control policy optimisation for SARS and other emerging infections - characterising transmission dynamics and estimating key epidemiological parameters
The project is internationally collaborative with teams from:
- Imperial College London, UK
- Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, France
- Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, Netherlands
- Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
- National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, ROC
- Laboratory of Respiration Department, General Hospital of PLA 301 Hospital, Beijing, China
- IC Consultants Ltd, UK
Although much of the research was focused on SARS, the overall aims included the development of a mathematical and statistical framework to facilitate general analyses. The framework facilitates assessment of how best to control the spread of infectious agents of a given type (i.e. given incubation and infectious period distributions) in defined local, national, or global settings.
Donnelly CA, Ghani AC, Leung GM, Hedley AJ, Fraser C, Riley S, Abu-Raddad LJ, Ho L-M, Thach T-Q, Chau P, Chan K-P, Lam T-H, Tse L-Y, Tsang T, Kong JHB, Cheung N-T, Lo S-V, Lau EMC, Ho W, Ferguson NM, Anderson RM. Epidemiological determinants of the spread of the causal agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Hong Kong. Lancet, 361, 1761–1766, 2003.
Riley S, Fraser C, Donnelly CA, Ghani AC, Abu-Raddad LJ, Hedley AJ, Leung GM, Ho L-M, Lam T-H, Thach T-Q, Chau P, Chan K-P, Lo S-V, Leung P-Y, Tsang T, Ho W, Lee K-H, Lau EMC, Ferguson NM, Anderson RM. Transmission dynamics of the etiological agent of SARS in Hong Kong: Impact of public health interventions. Science, 300, 1961-1966, 2003.
Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD)
Roy Anderson, Neil Ferguson and Christl Donnelly were involved in the analysis of the British 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). They were members of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Official Science Group, chaired by the Chief Scientific Advisor Professor (now Sir) David King, which advised on the spread of foot and mouth disease and the effects of potential control policies.
Ferguson NM, Donnelly CA and Anderson RM. The foot-and-mouth epidemic in Great Britain: Pattern of spread and impact of interventions. Science, 292, 1155-1160, 2001.
Ferguson NM, Donnelly CA and Anderson RM. Transmission intensity and the impact of control policies on the foot and mouth disease epidemic in Great Britain. Nature 413, 542-548, 2001.
The influence of climate and ecology on infectious disease epidemiologyResearch Fellow: Dr Artemis Koukounari (from September 2010)
Funding Source: MRC
Many infectious diseases are strongly influenced by climatic and ecological factors, and thanks to modern satellite technology more and more remotely sensed climatic datasets are becoming available at high spatial and temporal resolution. These datasets are useful to explain spatio-temporal patterns seen in the epidemiology in diseases such as malaria or avian influenza.
Projects include the use of climatic and ecological datasets to explain the patterns of malaria prevalence across Africa, and to extrapolate from this to estimate malaria burden and the potential impact of interventions1. For instance, seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) in children has been shown to be particularly efficient in areas where malaria transmission is highly seasonal. As the seasonality of mosquito abundance and therefore malaria transmission intensity is mainly driven by rainfall, we have used data on rainfall patterns across Africa to identify the areas in which SMC would be of highest benefit2.
In a collaboration with the WHO, OIE and FAO we investigated the spatio-temporal patterns of the incidence of H5N1 avian influenza in both human and poultry populations in Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam, the 3 most affected countries worldwide. We used climatic and ecological data in regression models to identify risk factors of human infection.
1. Garske T, Ferguson NM, Ghani AC. The influence of air temperature on malaria transmission across Africa. submitted.
2. Cairns M, Roca-Feltrer A, Garske T, Wilson AL, Diallo D, Milligan PJ, et al. Estimating the potential public health impact of seasonal malaria chemoprevention in African children. Nat Commun 2012;3:881.
Funding Source: MRC fellowship
This research will focus on schistosomiasis and trachoma; they are among the most prevalent of the so-called "Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)", an umbrella term encompassing a group of parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections collectively imposing a similar disease burden to that of malaria and HIV. Decisions on Mass Drug Administration (MDA), estimates of the burden of morbidity, infection prevalence and intensity of infection and evaluation of control measures, all depend on the results from diagnostic tests.
The proposed research aims to use advanced biostatistical analysis (including latent variable models) to further understanding of the effect upon the prevalence and intensity of schistosomiasis and of the ocular bacteria causing trachoma, and the likelihood of their elimination, of interventions based on MDA, as well as to evaluate the performance of the diagnostic tools currently used for the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of these two infections.
The main data sources are:
- annual longitudinal surveys from the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of National Schistosomiasis Control Programmes in Niger and Tanzania
- monthly longitudinal trachoma studies conducted in The Gambia and Tanzania.