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Title: Insights into the emergence of novel infectious diseases to humans
Author: Kubiak, Ruben J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 7561
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Novel infectious diseases in humans are of great concern to public health authorities and researchers in epidemiology. Zoonotic pathogens in particular have the potential to cause epidemics without any or little warning. In this thesis, I investigate evolutionary and environmental conditions, and the interactions between both, which facilitate the zoonotic emergence of novel pathogens. I start with a list of the mechanisms and processes which might influence a zoonotic emergence, and identify some unsolved problems. I address these with multiple, theoretical models. First, I use a village-city model with different adaptation scenarios to examine the influence of spatial heterogeneity on the emergence process. I derive general analytical results for the statistical properties of emergence events, including the probability distribution of outbreak sizes. My results suggest that, for typical connection strengths between communities, spatial heterogeneity has only a weak effect on outbreak size distributions, and on the risk of emergence per introduction. Next, I extend the research on environmental conditions by looking at pathogen specialisation in multi-host systems. I derive threshold connectivities for which generalist pathogens, which infect multiple species and might therefore be more dangerous to cross into the human species, can sustain transmission and are not dominated by specialists, which can only cause sustained transmission chains in a single host species, but are able to cause emergences with little warning. My third research chapter is interested in the effect of the loss of biodiversity. I analytically derive expected prevalences for fast growing and slow growing species. If fast growing species tend to perform better in degraded environments, my analytical results suggest that the overall prevalence level of infectious diseases will rise as environments degrade, which facilitates the chance of zoonotic jumps. In my last research chapter, I examine the actual impact of a novel, emerging infectious disease. I use data from the recent `Swine flu' epidemic in England to estimate epidemiological parameters of the infectious agent. My results suggest that the majority of infected cases showed no or only mild symptoms. This reveals that more data than just the estimated number of cases are necessary to fully evaluate the danger of a possible zoonotic, emerging infectious disease. I conclude by discussing my results and the implications which these might have.
Supervisor: McLean, Angela R. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biology ; Biodiversity ; Disease (zoology) ; Evolution (zoology) ; Ecology (zoology) ; Biology and other natural sciences (mathematics) ; Mathematical biology ; Infectious diseases ; infectious diseases ; zoonotic emergence ; mathematical modeling ; environment ; ecology