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Biogeography of human emerging infectious diseases in French Guiana: socio-economic and environmental factors

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Rodolphe Gozlan
    Prof M Nacher
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Studies have shown the role of certain socio-economic and environmental factors in the geographical distribution of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID’s) globally. The spread and establishment of pathogens responsible for these diseases seem to be constrained by ecological and biological barriers. However, the biogeographical distribution of EID’s in a single region has not been widely studied.

The location of French Guiana in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest provides a privileged site for studying EID’s. The hot and humid climate is well known to affect vectorially transmitted diseases and also diseases caused by generalist pathogens. Morris et al (2014) showed that rainfall is a structuring factor in the prevalence of some infectious diseases. In addition, a recent study showed a link between anthropogenic environmental modifications such as deforestation, changes in land use, urbanisation and pathogen abundance thus changing the level of risk of infection.

1) To determine the role of urbanisation, socio-economic and environmental factors on the spatial and seasonal distribution of EID’s,
2) Compare epidemiological models established for vectorially transmitted diseases and diseases transmitted by generalist pathogens

EID’s to be studied and for which French Guianese data is available are:
- Bacterial diseases: Leprosy, Buruli Ulcer (generalist), Lyme’s disease (vectorial)
- Viral diseases: zika (vectorial), chikungunya (vectorial), dengue fever (vectorial)
- Parasitic diseases: toxoplasmosis (generalist), malaria (vectorial), leishmaniasis
(vectorial), chagas disease (vectorial)

Scientific questions that the student should answer during the courseof the PhD are:
1) Do local geographical barriers exist to the distribution of EID’s?
2) Do the same barriers exist for all diseases and transmission routes?
3) Can infection risks be predicted from socio-economic and/or environmental criteria?

The student will complete and manipulate existing databases which includes:
i) number of cases of several tropical diseases diagnosed in French Guiana
ii) geographical location of cases
iii) biodiversity indices
iv) socio-economic data (land use change, population density, urban development maps)
v) environmental data (habitat type, maps of flood plain zones, pluviometry and altitude climate data)

The candidate should have a sound understanding of cartography (GIS, GQIS), statistics and modelling (R environment) and data base analysis along with understanding of infectious tropical diseases and should be organised, able to work independently, show initiative and be interested in the study of EID’s. Basic knowledge of French is favoured but not necessary.

A better understanding of local and regional biogeographic factors that have an impact on emergence and transmission of EID’s is necessary in order to better predict and control environmental infection risks that healthcare steakholders are faced with. The applications for this type of approach are:
i) the development of research on infectious diseases, ii) putting in place resources to identify new infectious agents iii) evaluation of infection risks iv) monitoring and implementation of disease control strategies.
The innovative nature of this PhD subject is the "OneHealth" approach to EID’s which is highly demanded by public health organisations and national and international research institutes within the context of sustainable development.

Informal enquiries about the project should be made to Prof Rodolphe Gozlan. (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rodolphe_Gozlan). Applications are made by sending a cover letter and a CV to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The PhD students (Early Stage Researchers (ESR)s in EU jargon) will be paid a salary in line with the French national fellowships for 36 months. The exact salary will be confirmed later date but PhD salaries are 1400€ after tax and can rise to 1700€ if teaching duties are undertaken to a maximum of 18hrs per month.


Smolinski et al. (2003) National Academies Press, Washington DC
Guernier et al. (2004) PLoS Biology, 2: 740-746

Murray et al. (2015) PNAS, 112: 12746-12751

Morris et al. (2014) Emerging Microbes & Infections, 3: e56
Morris et al. (2016a) EcoHealth, 13: 570-581
Morris et al. (2016b) Science Advances, 2: e1600387

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