Professor Christophe Fraser
University Research Fellow
Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care, Imperial College London
The population genetics of bacterial pathogens
“My fellowship has kept me very busy! In addition to our active research in understanding the spread and evolution of many human infectious diseases such as HIV and Streptococcus pneumoniae, the leading cause of bacterial disease in children, we also had to response to the flu pandemic that started in April 2009. The alarm was first raised by the CDC when, as part of routine surveillance, they discovered a new flu virus in two boys attending a naval academy in Texas, and discovered that this same virus had been responsible for what appeared to be a cluster of fatal infections amongst young adults in Mexico City. Within two days, a multidisciplinary team was assembled including scientists in Mexico, the WHO in Geneva, the CDC in Atlanta, and our own MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis at Imperial (of which I am the deputy director).
Together, we analysed all available data using state of the art methods developed with the aid of the Royal Society in recent years: the research team included 4 current and 3 recent Royal Society research fellows all currently working in the UK. Within days, we were available to provide a fairly comprehensive view of the potential for spread, and a range of estimates for the severity of the new virus. Most of these results have been validated by subsequent analysis. The results were published, and were made widely available to governments and inter-governmental agencies who had to make rapid decisions about expensive and disruptive public health controls (including antivirals, vaccine purchase, school closures and travel restrictions). In the event, the pandemic spread as predicted, but mostly with very low severity, at the lower end of initial predictions.”
Read more about Professor Christophe Fraser's work at Imperial College London