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Dr Sarah Perkins 


For full details of my research and those working in the group please see www.cripescardiff.ac.uk

I use a combination of field and laboratory experiments to determine the role of variation in infectious diseases.

What is the role of individuals in disease persistence and invasion?

Photo of mouse

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?

Social networks image

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. I use wild rodents as a model system to study interactions between the macrobiota (helminths) and microbiota (bacteria). This work is carried out in collaboration with the Fondazione Edmund Mach as part of an ‘incoming research team’ grant.

Using bioluminescent reporters to study real-time in vivo pathogen dynamics

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.


Citizen Science

Project Splatter logo

Our group runs a citizen science project to collate wildlife kill – ‘Project Splatter’.  Members of the public send us the location of UK wildlife roadkill – birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. We use GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to map where the roadkill is across the UK examining for hotspots. Our data are open access and we report results the public on Twitter (@ProjectSplatter) and Facebook. Please see our website for more information http://projectsplatter.wordpress.com/about/


Other:

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 – perkinss@cardiff.ac.uk.

Grants:

My current research is funded by:

  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Autonomous Province of Trentino
  • Universities Federation for Animal Welfare