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Title: Genome evolution and epidemiology of human pathogens
Author: Dearlove, Bethany Lorna
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Understanding the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases is important to well-informed public health policy, responsive infection control and individual patient management. The on-going revolution in whole-genome sequencing provides unprecedented resolution for detecting evidence of recent transmission and characterising population-level transmission dynamics. In this thesis, I develop and apply evolutionary approaches to investigating transmission, focusing on three globally important pathogens. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of liver disease affecting 150 million people and killing 350,000 annually. I conducted a meta-analysis of twentieth-century HCV epidemics, finding that the age of the epidemic can be predicted by genetic diversity. Using the coalescent, I fitted classic susceptible-infected (SI), susceptible-infected-susceptible (SIS) and susceptible-infected-recovered (SIR) epidemiological models. Most epidemics showed signatures of SI dynamics, but three, from Argentina, Hong Kong and Thailand, revealed complex SIR dynamics. Norovirus is the leading viral cause of diarrhoea, estimated to cost the NHS around £115 million annually. I analysed whole norovirus genomes via a stochastic transmission model, finding that up to 86% of hospital infection was attributable to transmission from another patient in the hospital. In contrast, the rate of new introductions to hospital by infected patients was extremely low (<0.0001%), underlining the importance of ward management during outbreaks. Campylobacter is the most commonly identified cause of bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide. I developed a zoonotic transmission model based on phylogeography approaches to test whether three strains previously associated with multiple host species were in fact aggregates of strongly host-restricted sub-strains, or genuine generalists. Members of the same strain isolated from different host species were often more closely related than those isolated from the same host species. I estimated 419, 389 and 31 zoonotic transmissions in ST-21, ST-45 and ST-828 respectively, strongly supporting the hypothesis that these strains are adapted to a generalist lifestyle.
Supervisor: Wilson, Daniel J.; Donnelly, Peter J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Infectious diseases ; Epidemiology ; Genetics (medical sciences) ; Viruses ; Evolution (zoology) ; evolution ; whole genome sequencing ; coalescent ; population genetics ; hepatitis C virus ; norovirus ; Campylobacter