Background on disease emergence and transmission
The last 25 years have seen a dramatic increase in our awareness of the need to understand the ecological and evolutionary drivers of disease emergence and transmission dynamics.
This has been particularly evident in the recent COVID-19 global pandemic.
While knowledge has increased about specific systems and the basic principles of simple systems, understanding of complex systems and translation of those principles into ecosystem, public health, and agricultural health management tools remains challenging.
The emergence and the re-emergence of numerous infectious diseases around the world have coincided with unprecedented rates of change in the structure and diversity of the environment and human social and economic systems.
Nearly all the world’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems have undergone dramatic changes due to a variety of human activities.
The coincidence of broad scale environmental changes, the expansion of human social and economic networks and the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases alludes to underlying predictable ecological and eco-evolutionary relationships.
The ability to define molecular identity and dynamics of pathogens, and apply genetic knowledge to understand evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases, have improved and significantly contributed to our knowledge of the epidemiology and transmission patterns of diseases.
Currently, basic and applied research of infectious disease ecology and evolution are not well integrated.
The potential benefits of an integrated interdisciplinary research programme in this area include:
- development of disease transmission theory
- improved understanding of how diseases emerge or re-emerge
- improved understanding of host population and ecosystem effects on disease transmission
- increased capacity to forecast and respond to outbreaks
- improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects affecting terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal marine systems
- enhanced safety of food supplies
- improved strategies to control or prevent infectious diseases and enhance biosecurity.
About this programme and funding opportunity
By bringing together interdisciplinary teams of life scientists, mathematicians and social scientists, this programme will result in the development of cross-cutting models and concepts that can aid in the prediction, prevention and response to emerging diseases.
This may include:
- generation of principles and conceptual frameworks that organise and inform the research leading to mathematical, computational and statistical models of infectious disease dynamics
- generation of rigorously characterised and tested models that are of value to the scientific community and wider decision making
- deepening of our understanding of complex infectious disease systems, including these drivers of transmission:
- elucidation of general ecological and evolutionary principles with applications across multiple pathogens
- better understanding of how infectious agents:
- emerge as pathogens
- adapt to hosts
- interact with other microbial communities (such as microbiomes)
- are transmitted between hosts.