The largest body of our research has dealt with avian influenza (“bird flu”) H5N1 and H7N9 in Asia. We have also been studying the spatial epidemiology of several other livestock diseases at both local and continental scales to better understand their spatial distribution and to identify their main spatial drivers.
In 2004, the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus started spreading throughout Asia, causing the death of millions of poultry and transmitting occasionaly to humans, with some fatalities. In the following years, the virus spread across Eurasia down to Africa. Today, it persists in a limited set of countries (Egypt, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Indonesia). Our work consisted in identifying the main risk factors associated with the presence or absence of the diseases at multiple scale, in particular the role of host species, and type of farming. Recently, a different avian influenza H7N9 virus emerged in China, low pathogenic in poultry this time, but causing human fatalities too.
Our current research aims to understand the agro-ecological drivers of avian influenza emergence. Why are these viruses emerging ? Where are they more likely to emerge ? Why are they showing a higher apparent seasonality ? What is the respective role of wild bird connectivity and trade in pattern of virus migrations ? These are the numerous questions we are trying to tackle through geospatial analysis and modelling.
Our work also entails producting suitability maps at different spatial scale that can be used to be target suveillance and control in high-risk areas. In the long run, we aim to better understand the role of changes in production and trade systems in the emergence and spread of those viruses, so that we can project how changes in those systems resulting from intensification of the production may translate into disease risk. In addition, we aim to better complement geospatial approaches with phylogeographic analysis and inference to better understand how different factors may shape the evolution and spread of these viruses.
Previous work has involved studies on bovine tuberculosis in Belgium and in the UK, and on the vectors of Bluetongue disease in Belgium and Italy. We currently work on applying spatial modelling to different disease such as Bluetongue in Europe, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Nipah virus infections in Thailand.
Our main institutional collaborators are or have been T. Robinson (ILRI, Nairobi, Kenya), G. Dauphin, W. Kalpravidth, S. Newman, V. Martin, J. Slingenbergh (FAO, Rome, Italy), W. Thanapongtharm (Department of Livestock Development, DLD, Bangkok, Thailand), H. Yu (Chinese Center for Disease Control, CDC, Beijing, China), A. Conte & Carla Ippoliti (IZS Teramo), and our main academic collaborators are or have been Xiangming Xiao (Univ. Oklahoma, USA), Julien Cappelle (CIRAD, Montpellier, France), D. Pfeiffer (Royal Veterinary College, London, UK), N. Golding, S. Hay (SEEG, Univ. Oxford, Oxford, UK) ad W. Wint (ERGO ltd, Oxford, UK).