Research Fellows Directory
Professor Christophe Fraser
Imperial College London
In the past year, one of our main areas of research has been how to use the genetic code of bacteria and viruses to improve public health.
If we consider a new epidemic, all the bacteria or viruses that are found are recently descended from a single cell. For example, for the 2009 swine influenza epidemic, all viruses were descended from the single virus that crossed the ‘species barrier’ from pigs to humans, sometime in late 2008, somewhere in North America. This virus rapidly spread amongst humans all around the world, and as it replicated it acquired mutations that could be use to distinguish viruses spreading in one area from another. This way we can use the genetic code data that public health labs routinely publish to help improve our understanding of how quickly epidemics are spreading. This will undoubtedly be important in understanding future emerging epidemics.
In another important and exciting project, our group was part of a large consortium that was awarded US $38 million to conduct a trial to prevent HIV infections in South Africa and Zambia, countries that are being devastated by the AIDS epidemic. The trial will look at a range of interventions, the most promising being house-to-house voluntary HIV testing of all individuals in a population, so that they all know their infection status, and an immediate and unconditional offer of treatment, irrespective of their immediate clinical status. In carefully monitored couples, immediate treatment was shown to reduce infection rates by 96%, a finding so spectacular that it led Barack Obama to call for action towards an AIDS free generation. Our trial, called PopART or HPTN071, will test whether this intervention can be delivered and be as effective when used in whole populations. We developed a computer simulation of the HIV epidemic that was used for designing the trial, and will be responsible for using computer models to help interpret the results of the trial.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)