We are currently only too aware of the ever-increasing concerns about emerging infectious diseases in humans (e.g., covid-19, but also recently Ebola, pandemic influenza, chikungunya fever etc.). Emerging diseases are also a major conservation concern for many wildlife species (e.g., chytridiomycosis in amphibians, white nose syndrome in bats, rabies in various mammal species, etc.). To understand, predict and manage these outbreaks requires a sophisticated understanding of the individual-level drivers of transmission. Pathogen transmission is the fundamental process that drives the emergence and spread of new infectious diseases. Transmission is typically conceptualised as a ‘mass action’ process, where homogenous groups of susceptible and infected individuals encounter each other at random. But the reality is quite different; due to genetic, phenotypic, environmental and nutrition-related reasons, not all individuals are equally susceptible and not all infected individuals are equally infectious. Quantifying these sources of variation (‘heterogeneities’), and understanding their consequences for disease emergence, spread and control is vital if we are to develop effective disease mitigation strategies. Using an invertebrate empirical system in both the lab and field, this studentship will: 1) Quantify host heterogeneities in susceptibility and infectiousness for a range of parasites. 2) Partition those heterogeneities into environmental, genetic and demographic factors. 3) Develop theory to predict the consequences of different mixing patterns between heterogeneous individuals for disease emergence and spread. 4) Experimentally test those predictions under a range of environmental scenarios. This project will provide insight into how heterogeneities in infectiousness and susceptibility influence the spread and impact of infectious diseases. This project will suit students interested in both fundamental and applied aspects of infectious disease ecology. They will be supervised by
experts in both theoretical (Fenton) and empirical (Viney) infectious disease biology, and will gain skills in experimental design, implementation and analysis, mathematical modelling and conceptual thinking.
HOW TO APPLY
Notes and how to apply are available here: https://acce.shef.ac.uk/phd-opportunities-at-liverpool/