Dr Sarah Perkins
I use a combination of field and laboratory experiments to determine the role of variation in infectious diseases.
What is the role of super-spreaders in disease persistence?
Individuals within a population are not equal; they differ in their exposure and susceptibility to parasites. These heterogeneities in infection status can create "super-spreaders": hosts that have a disproportionately high contribution to the number of infective stages (often, 20% of the host population can account for at least 80% of pathogen and parasite transmission). Using parasites of small mammals and lab-insect systems I determine whether the most infected are also the most connected. Using these data I investigate the effect of co-infection, contact rates and infection load on super-spreading.
How do social networks alter disease dynamics?
Contacts between individuals are not equal – social network theory offers methods for visualizing and quantifying variation in contacts. I use social network analyses to determine the role of individuals in disease transmission and assess how epizootics and disease treatment can alter the contact structure of populations.
How do parasites interact?
Parasites within an individual do not function in isolation. Using a variety of techniques I monitor and manipulate the parasite community structure of a population of rodents to determine how co-infection alters parasite dynamics and shapes the community composition of the gut microbiome.
Helminths as vectors of pathogens
Some pathogens can associate with helminths to facilitate transmission between hosts. I am using bioluminescent reporter systems to determine the role that helminths play as vectors of bacterial pathogens in vertebrates. I am also investigating what ecological advantages may accrue to bacteria that associate with free-living bactiverous nematodes.
Using bioluminescent reporters to study real-time in vivo pathogen dynamics
In collaboration with Dr. Vyv Salisbury at the University of West England, UK, I use an in-vivo real-time imaging system to shed light on the dynamics of co-infection. Using an insect-pathogen system I use self-bioluminescent bacteria to determine how contacts patterns and pathogen load results in transmission between infected and susceptible individuals.
CRIPES - Every 2 weeks we run an informal discussion group called CRIPES (Cardiff Research on Infection and Parasites in Ecological Systems). If you would like to join this group, please email me – email@example.com.
My research is funded by:
- Natural Environment Research Council
- Fondazione Edmund Mach
- Cardiff University