Disease transmission and control in complex, structured populations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Mathematics


Infectious disease is the main thing that kills people. Some of the greatest improvements to human health have involved improvements in our understanding and control of germs - from John Snow's pioneering work on cholera in the 19th century to the eradication of smallpox in the 20th century. The 21st century sees a new set of challenges in the understanding and control of infections - while the eradication of polio progresses, we see new influenza strains causing or threatening pandemics, the continued progression of HIV and a massive health burden of often simply but expensively preventable diseases in the developing world.Epidemiology - the science of looking for significant patterns in cases of disease - has always been at the heart of controlling infectious diseases, and mathematics has always been central epidemiology.This project applies advanced mathematics to the science of epidemiology, making use of the large datasets and modern computational resources that are available. New insights about the structure of complex systems offer the promise of making massive advances in this field, through enhanced understanding of transmission routes of infection, risk factors and changes in the disease over time. These insights can in turn be combined with mathematical methods to design optimised interventions against infection so that diseases can be controlled in the most effective way.

Planned Impact

The ultimate aim for impact from my research is to reduce the burden of infectious disease on the human population - quantitative epidemiology has always been at the centre of efforts to control pathogens.Infectious disease remains the main cause of human mortality. This means that major advances in our understanding of them can revolutionise public health, while even minor improvements in science can have highly significant effects on the general health and well-being of the general population.The intermediate beneficiaries of my work are the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which is the body responsible for public health - including infection control - in England, the medical research institute KEMRI in Kenya, and also the Department of Health and associated scientific advisory bodies. Through working with these bodies as detailed in the Pathways to Impact document I will ensure that any policy-relevant conclusions from my work are swiftly disseminated.
Description The discoveries arising from this fellowship were extremely wide-ranging, particularly as regards population structure and infectious disease, and extending to more general issues in complex data and epidemiology. Some recent highlights are: results on the emergence of pandemic influenza; new mathematical techniques for network epidemics; understanding social effects in giving birth in facilities in Uganda; statistical tests for the epidemiological relevance of the tail of a contact distribution; vaccine policy relevant modelling for RSV in developed countries; that depression does not spread in social networks but health mood does; and many technical results that support these conclusions.
Exploitation Route Public Health Policy.
Sectors Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/thomas.house
Description The impacts from this fellowship have been both immediate and longer-term. Highlights include: > Impact of work on 2009 data on pandemic preparedness policy, including for schools and households. > Work on mood and complex contagion was extremely widely reported in public and had a large impact on discussions of these issues > Work on Ebola was widely cited and used as part of evidence synthesis by the Government. > Analysis techniques for complex data picked up by Industry, leading to founding of companies and collaborations with large companies. > Extensive impact on study design, modelling and data analysis during the current coronavirus pandemic. It is almost uncanny how much of the research supported under this award had at times during the pandemic played an absolutely central role in determination of national policy and scientific understanding during the pandemic, made possible by a follow-on "Impact" fellowship.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description Industrially Funded MPhil
Amount £26,900 (GBP)
Organisation Autotrader 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
Description Industrially Funded MSc project
Amount £3,000 (GBP)
Organisation Autotrader 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 09/2016