I am a viral ecologist studying the dynamics of cross-species transmission and host shifts. Much of my work takes a comparative approach, aiming to discover generalisable patterns which may help us to anticipate and prepare for future outbreaks of infectious disease. I also often use rabies virus as a model system, given it’s wide host range, frequent cross-species transmission, and the consequences of these events for public and animal health. As part of my current postdoc with Daniel Streicker I am leading efforts to determine the most appropriate sampling strategies for discovering unknown viral threats, designing methods to triage newly discovered viruses for further study, and developing spatial models to predict rabies spill-over events.
PhD in Ecology and Environmental Biology, 2018
University of Glasgow
MSc in Microbiology, 2013
University of Pretoria
BSc (hons) in Microbiology, 2010
University of Pretoria
Do some reservoir groups (e.g. bats) produce more zoonotic viruses than others? By cataloguing the accepted reservoirs for 415 viruses associated with mammals and birds, we show that there is currently no evidence for the existance of any such special reservoir groups. Instead, groups containing more reservoir species are associated with more viruses, and proportionally more zoonotic viruses.
Why most cross-species transmissions fail to establish ongoing transmission in the newly infected species remains poorly understood. Examining cross-species inoculations involving rabies, we show that mismatches in virulence which are predictable from host and viral factors make sustained transmission in the novel host less likely. These mechanistic insights help to explain and predict host shift events and highlight meta-analyses of existing experimental inoculation data as a powerful and generalisable approach for understanding the dynamics of index infections in novel species.
Popular Science (May 2020), Why do so many diseases come from bats?
Nature News (April 2020), Bats are a key source of human viruses — but they’re not special.
Ars Technica (April 2020), There seems to be no pattern to where humans pick up new viruses.
IFLScience (April 2020), Not Just Bats – All Sorts Of Animals Harbor Viruses That Infect Humans.