Through the Eye of a Mosquito
theoretical modelling of vector-borne zoonotic pathogens
One of the biggest global health challenges we are facing today is the spillover of wildlife diseases into human populations, most of which are transmitted by mosquito vectors. Thus, to reduce its impact on humans, it is essential to understand the factors that promote or inhibite spillover into human populations by considering the epidemiology of the pathogens both in vertebrate and vector communities. Technically, this requires an integration of community and disease ecology into a single mathematical framework, which explicitly considers vectors and hosts as distinct species, with different potential for pathogen amplification and contact rates. While mechanistic models exploring vector population dynamics have a long history, multihost-multivector model have not adequately integrated heterogeneity in host-vector interactions, despite their obvious importance. I will be studying the role of vector species diversity and specifically, the diversity of their distinct behaviours and ecological requirements in shaping the complex pathogen transmission dynamics and ultimately determining the risk of spillover into human populations.
My objectives are at the interface of theoretical and empirical research: 1) I use a rich data set to characterize the web of interactions between vectors and hosts, 2) I extend existing theory to explicitly consider vectors as distinct species and 3) I then study the role that behavioural heterogeneity has in shaping the larder web, and ultimately determining the risk of spilling over vs. disease extinction.