Two Kansas State University researchers are exploring how diseases spread across long distances in an effort to learn how to better control the next human, animal or plant epidemic.
The KSU researchers are part of a group recently awarded a $2.5 million grant through the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases, or EEID, program jointly funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health and the U.K.’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Caterina Scoglio, professor of electrical and computer engineering and Faryad Darabi Sahneh, research assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will study data for vector-borne infectious diseases to model how these types of epidemics spread, with a focus on the role of long-distance dispersal in the spread of diseases.
They will evaluate the efficacy of different control methods, such as limiting animal movements or reducing the vector population. As models are compared and refined, they will help researchers develop rules of thumb for controlling outbreaks.
The project combines scientists with expertise in plant pathology, livestock diseases and vector-borne diseases to identify similarities in how the different types of diseases spread, according to Scoglio.
The principal investigator on the project is Chris Mundt from Oregon State University. Investigators from other institutions are Lee Cohnstaedt from USDA-ARS, Matt Keeling from the University of Warwick, Ross Meentemeyer from North Carolina State University and Michael Tildesley from the University of Nottingham.
“We come from different disease modeling frameworks, but the point is to see if these frameworks can be translated — if there are unifying aspects in any spreading process,” Scoglio said.
“The role of long-range dispersal is important to examine because sometimes the diseases don’t spread as a wave in a population, but they jump to far locations because an infected animal is transferred to a distant farm or an exposed person travels from one city to another, maybe on a different continent,” she said.
Sahneh is excited to work with the group of investigators. “We at K-State want to collaborate with this team to seek the universal knowledge in transmission of infectious diseases despite the apparently disparate models describing distinct domains,” Sahneh said.