IDReC David Hayman : Marsden Fund Grant (Unpacking infection spillover dynamics)
by Charlotte Bolwell
Dr David Hayman, IDReC: Unpacking infection spillover dynamics, $300,000
The majority of human infections have ‘spilled over' from animals. Emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, HIV and pandemic influenza are examples of such spillovers. As well as being of major importance to human health, infections that cross species boundaries also affect animal populations, including apes, amphibians and bats.
A Fast-Start Marsden Fund grant will help Dr David Hayman from Massey University and colleagues from the University of Sussex and the University of California Los Angeles to develop mathematical models that can help understand why spillover events occur.
Dr Hayman will develop these models using genomic data on the microorganisms that are shared between humans, livestock and gorillas living in close proximity in a Ugandan National Park. This approach can detect the moment a spillover event occurs. His research will test whether bacteria are more likely to share hosts than viruses, and whether viral spillover between hosts is made easier by their evolutionary relatedness.
This study has the potential to be a flagship research project for global health by developing and strengthening international collaborations with world-leading researchers. It is topical given the recent Ebola epidemic and will increase our chances of detecting future disease spillover events early, thus helping to prevent future outbreaks.