Research Fellows Directory
Dr Trevor Bedford
University of Edinburgh
My current research focuses on the evolution of the influenza virus. The evolutionary time scale of influenza is a human time scale, one that facilitates the tracking of forces that underlie its evolutionary history: forces like mutation, migration, and adaptation. As with other infectious diseases, ecological models of influenza are well developed. Thus, viral populations present, for the first time, the opportunity to build unified ecological and evolutionary models. My goal is to use such models to understand the past evolution of the influenza virus. Modeling the H3N2 flu virus’s evolutionary process, for example, has allowed me to track its physical migration as it traversed the globe over the past ten years. I believe that the theory and computational tools of evolutionary biology have progressed to the point where doing ‘predictive evolution’ has become a real possibility. With a detailed model of past influenza population dynamics in hand, we can make predictions about potential future evolutionary trajectories.
Predictions of influenza evolution would have immediate practical implications. Every February, virus strains are selected to form the autumn/winter Northern Hemisphere seasonal influenza vaccine. Selecting a strain in February that matches what strains will be circulating 9 months later is essential to vaccine efficacy. Thus, improving predictions of influenza evolutionary may result in improvements to vaccine efficacy.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)