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Whither disease ecology? Old problems and new solutions

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Infectious Disease Dynamics

The study of disease dynamics in natural populations has made great strides in the last 20 years, but major challenges remain. Progress that has been made on single-host, single-pathogen systems must be extended to more complex natural communities, to address the dynamics of multiple pathogens circulating among multiple host species. Sometimes this boils down to classic problems, but often it reveals new dimensions that demand new empirical and theoretical approaches. In this talk, I will highlight some current challenges in multi-host systems, beginning with zoonotic pathogens as a relatively well-studied class of examples. I will discuss problems arising around cross-species ‘spillover’ transmission and subcritical ‘stuttering’ transmission, and how these processes influence our approach to classic questions such as the determinants of disease persistence. I will emphasize the interplay between models and data, and the challenges posed by epidemiologica l ‘dark matter’ (i.e. unobserved cases, or unobserved host species). To conclude, I will broaden the discussion to include ecological interactions among pathogen species, and the potential to study these using the (un-)natural experiments of pathogen introduction or eradication.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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