Spatial Epidemiology Lab

Université Libre de Bruxelles

Spatial epidemiology studies the effect of spatial factors on the emergence, spread, persistence and evolution of diseases and invasive species. The understanding of key spatial factors, such as environmental or anthropogenic variables, and their integration into spatial models is used to predict the geographical distribution of risk, which can contribute to better targetted prevention, surveillance and control measures. We also work toward the improvement of methods in spatial modelling and landscape phylogeography, and of large-scale data sets on human and farm animals.


A new paper in Science on antimicrobial resistance in low and middle countries

On September 20 2019 by Marius Gilbert

The paper aimed to produce a first global overview of antimicrobial resistance in low and middle-income countries, based on the compilation of thousands of point-prevalence surveys. The paper, published in Science describes temporal trends in the levels of resistance in farm animals, and provides a first global map of where antimicrobial resistance is the highest. The paper is lead by Thomas Van Boeckel, a former member of the lab, who now leads the Health Geography and Policy Group at ETH Zurich, and was carried out in collaboration with researchers from Princeton university and CDDEP. Read more...

New publication on methodological developments in landscape phylogeography

On September 01 2019 by Simon Dellicour

Our new article on landscape phylogeography has been accepted for publication in Molecular Ecology. In this study, we applied different post-hoc landscape phylogeographic approaches to analyse a new and comprehensive data set of viral genomes to elucidate the dispersal history and dynamics of rabies virus (RABV) in Iran. Recent years have seen the extensive use of phylogeographic approaches to unveil the dispersal history of virus epidemics. Spatially-explicit reconstructions of viral spread represent valuable sources of lineage movement data that can be exploited to investigate the impact of underlying environmental layers on the dispersal of pathogens. Read more...

New publication on the future global distribution of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus

On March 01 2019 by Marius Gilbert

Since a few years, we have been involved in the development of method to measure the rate of spread of biolgical invasions. More specifically, we published a new method to quantify the local velocity of the front wave of an invasion, and applied this method to measure the rate of spread of several bluetongue epidemics. Recently, the sampe method was applied to describe the invasion by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in US and in Europe in a large collaborative study lead by Moritz Kraemer, at the university of Oxford. Read more...

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Research topics

Landscape phylogeography

Spatially-explicit phylogeographic analyses can be used to introduce phylogenetic trees in a geographic context. Over the last years, we started exploiting such spatially-annotated trees to investigate the impact on environmental factors on the dispersal history and dynamic of viral lineages (dispersal velocity, dispersal direction and dispersal frequency). Furthermore, we also aim to use phylogeographic reconstruction to assess hypothetical intervention strategies in the context of viral epidemics.

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Livestock diseases

Our research mainly deal with the spatial epidemiology of avian influenza (AI) at different spatial scales, with particular emphasis on on the role of agro-ecological factors on the emergence, spread and persistence of AI viruses. Over the years, we have also been involved in research on other important livestock diseases such as bluetongue, bovine tuberculosis, foot and mouth disease, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, and Nipah virus infections.

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Mapping livestock

The geographical distribution of livestock (cattle, sheep, goat, pig, chicken, duck, buffaloes, camels) is a key driver of the distribution of diseases and has important environmental impacts at a global scale in terms of direct pollution through manure managment, greenhouse gaz emissions and contribution to antimicrobial resistance. Our work aim to better map the distribution of livestock production at a global scale, with some special emphasis on intensive livestock production and projections.

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Mapping human population

For many low-income countries of the World where disease burden is greatest, spatially detailed, contemporary census data on human population are missing. As partner of the Worldpop consortiumn, we are working on improving human population distribution maps in Africa and on urban expansion model that would allow us to project how the distribution of human population may change over time.

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Modelling geographical invasions

Invading organisms spreading though a heterogeneous landscape are difficult to study using conventional statistical models. We aim to develop new methodology to study those type of data, to review existing methods, and to compare all methods in their capacity to detect the influence of landscape heterogeneity on the pattern of spread.

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