EPISYSTEM: Designing biological, social and economic environments to enhance resistance to zoonotic outbreaks

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Computing Science and Mathematics

Abstract

Pathogens in their livestock, wildlife and environmental hosts exert a constant pressure on the human population. Coupled with their evolution and adaptation, the matter is not so much whether a new epidemic will emerge, but when and how it will happen. We must therefore ensure that the chances of emergence and invasion of pathogens are minimised. To understand and eventually control the ways pathogens emerge and spread we need to consider a complex system of interacting biological, environmental, economic and social factors. There is a pressing need to develop a holistic theory of such systems analogous to the social-ecological systems approach in ecology. By analogy to ecosystems we call them episystems. The key requirement of an episystem is its ability to mitigate emergence, invasion, spread and persistence of pathogens. Episystems are dynamic and subject to disturbances. As the environmental, social, economical, psychological and biological factors change, the structure of the episystem may be affected to the point when it is not longer able to function. For example, with an anticipated increase in human population, worldwide, there will be pressures to increase food supply, leading to an increased possibility of spillover from farm to human population. We therefore need to understand mechanisms underlining proper functioning of the episystem and to design its structure so that it continues to suppress pathogens even under changed conditions. For social-ecological systems, resilience characterises the capacity of an ecosystem to tolerate disturbance. We propose to extend the concept of resilience to study the response of socio-ecological systems to pathogen spillover and spread. We also need ways to coordinate people s actions in face of epidemic risk and potential economic losses, while the response of the society is partially driven by lay perceptions of health, immunity and risk. We propose to bring together biologists, economists and social scientists with mathematical and statistical modelling providing a common language in which models will be framed and recommendations produced.

Technical Summary

Pathogens in their livestock, wildlife and environmental hosts exert a constant pressure on the human population. To understand and eventually control the ways pathogens emerge and spread we need to consider a complex system of interacting biological, environmental, economic and social factors. There is a pressing need to develop a holistic theory of such systems analogous to the social-ecological systems approach in ecology. By analogy to ecosystems we call them episystems. For social-ecological systems, resilience characterises the capacity of an ecosystem to tolerate disturbance. We propose to extend the concept of resilience to study the response of socio-ecological systems to pathogen spillover and spread as the environmental, social, economical, psychological and biological factors change. The project brings together biologists, economists and social scientists with mathematical and statistical modelling providing a common language in which models will be framed and recommendations produced. In the Catalyst Grant stage of the project we will identify the main components of the episystem encompassing three contrasting yet complementary groups of diseases, bird/air-, farm/food- and water-borne zoonoses. Using a combination of biological expertise and data, epidemiological modeling and parameter estimation, economic modeling and public health modelling we will then identify the key drivers affecting the emergence and spread of zoonosis and future risks associated with social, economic and environmental pressure. We will also engage end-users and study typical response of different levels of organizations to real and perceived risks. The full project will address design of a structure of the episystem in order to enhance its ability to suppress emergence and spread of zoonoses. Particular attention will be given to various trade-offs (biological, economical and social) associated with a risk of disease spread in a multi-host, multi-pathogen and multi-strain system. We will also design a system of social and economic stimulants that enhances resilience of the episystem to emergence, spread and persistence of diseases.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description DEFRA/FC ITT/0365
Amount £19,000 (GBP)
Funding ID FC/0365 
Organisation Forestry Commission 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 11/2016 
End 10/2017
 
Description DfID consultancy
Amount £19,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of the UK 
Department Department for International Development (DfID)
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2011 
End 05/2011
 
Description Tree Health and Plant Biodiversity Initiative
Amount £1,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/L012561/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 07/2014 
End 07/2017
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Department Pirbright Institute
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation Centre For Environment, Fisheries And Aquaculture Science
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation Heriot-Watt University
Department Statistics and Actuarial Science
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation Newcastle University
Department Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department School of Veterinary Medicine Glasgow
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation University of Sussex
Department School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences Sussex
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation University of York
Department The York Management School
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Episystem 
Organisation Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Consortium Phase I ESEI
Collaborator Contribution Consortium for Phase I ESEI programmeConsortium for Phase I ESEI programmePolicy Ethics and Life Sciences Research CentreConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEIConsortium Phase I ESEI
Impact Preparation for Phase II project; workshops; multi-disciplinary project: biology, mathematics, statistics, economics, social science
Start Year 2009
 
Description Hotspots 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Multiple 
PI Contribution A systematic review of the published literature was undertaken, to explore the ability of different types of model to help identify the relative importance of different drivers leading to the development of zoonoses hotspots.
Collaborator Contribution Preparation of a report for DfID; review paper.Preparation of a report for DfID; review paper
Impact Report "Characterising livestock system 'zoonoses hotspots'" DfID Presentation at a DfID workshop Interdisciplinary research including medical and veterinary science, mathematics and economics
Start Year 2011
 
Description Hotspots 
Organisation Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution A systematic review of the published literature was undertaken, to explore the ability of different types of model to help identify the relative importance of different drivers leading to the development of zoonoses hotspots.
Collaborator Contribution Preparation of a report for DfID; review paper.Preparation of a report for DfID; review paper
Impact Report "Characterising livestock system 'zoonoses hotspots'" DfID Presentation at a DfID workshop Interdisciplinary research including medical and veterinary science, mathematics and economics
Start Year 2011
 
Description DfID workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Presentation at the workshop "Programme Development meeting on Zoonoses" organised by DfID on 4th May 2011. The workshop was attended by about 40 participants, including researchers and policymakers.

Further studies will be commissioned by DfiD. The results will feed into a long-term research and policy strategy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011