One host – multiple parasites: Co-infecting parasites and their implications for host health and disease transmission.
(i) Stability and resilience of parasite communities in a wild mouse population
In collaboration with Andy Fenton (University of Liverpool) and Owen Petchey (University of Sheffield) we are investigating the dynamics of parasite communities within wild wood mouse populations. Our goal is perform basic ecological manipulations of parasites communities in the field, removing parasites from individuals in a naturally occurring mammal population, and evaluating the consequences for the remaining parasite community. By combining these perturbation experiments with a community ecology modelling framework we hope to directly quantify the nature of interspecific parasite interactions within a natural population, and determine the implications of these interactions for community stability. Our aim is to develop a rigorous understanding of the causes and consequences of parasite community structure in natural systems.
(ii) Understanding the role of co-infection in the success of treatment strategies and global health policies
Over the past several years, we have developed a series of interdisciplinary collaborations interested in global health and poverty; specifically in the role that infectious diseases play in poor human populations (see Pedersen & Fenton 2007). Recently we have begun to investigate how co-infection dynamics between important human pathogens may affect treatment and vaccination strategy as well as inform health policies. We aim to do this using two approaches:
1. generalizing the findings of the mouse-parasite work by building community ecological/epidemiological models that can test the effect of vaccination and indirect interactions on host and parasite population dynamics (Owen Petchey, Andy Fenton, Emily Griffiths).
2. building a database of co-infection and co-treatment studies and current treatment and vaccination strategies in humans to integrate specific co-infection dynamics and create predictions about future strategies and policies (
Emily Griffiths).