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Spillover within Socioecological Systems

Our research aims to understand how human behavior and ecology alters the risk of zoonotic spillover.

Cross-Scale Dynamics of LASV Spillover within Human-Driven Ecosystems

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New NSF EEID Grant to study Lassa Fever

RISK Lab receives big new grant to study Lassa virus transmission within human-driven ecosystems in Nigeria

Lassa virus (LASV) infection in humans causes Lassa fever, a hemorrhagic fever of public health significance in West Africa and a global health priority. Lassa fever epidemics are dominated by regular transmission of LASV from rodent reservoirs to humans within a rural context, which means LASV provides a uniquely tractable system to understand zoonotic spillover.

This study examines the human behaviors that create exposures to LASV. We look at the proximate forms of human-reservoir overlap and interactions, as well as how humans ultimately construct ecological processes that affect the rate of zoonotic spillover.

Data from our fine-scale ecological and anthropological field studies will integrate into broad-scale risk models to fill key gaps in how risk is propagated across scales and inform ongoing disease management efforts.

This research utilizes a One Health approach that mobilizes multiple disciplines, sectors, and communities to sustainably balance and optimize the interdependent health of people, animals, and ecosystems.

Local-scale field studies are conducted in collaboration with Lina Moses (Tulane), Anise and Christian Happi (ACEGID, Nigeria), and Ottar Bjornstad and Christina Harden (Penn State). Broad-scale modelling is led by David Redding (ZSL) in collaboration with Rory Gibb, Ibrahim Abubakar, and Kate Jones (UCL).

Investigation of zoonotic risk factors among suspected and confirmed monkeypox cases


New CDC Contract to study Monkeypox

RISK Lab receives contract to study zoonotic risk factors for monkeypox in Nigeria

Monkeypox (MPX) is a zoonotic disease endemic to Central and Western Africa. The natural history remains unknown, but small mammal species including rodents are hypothesized to serve as reservoir hosts. Zoonotic spillover results from human contact with animal reservoirs and/or their bodily fluids. Despite the growing threat that MPX poses to global health, little is known about the ecological and epidemiological origins of the virus.​

This study aims to improve our understanding of MPX ecology and epidemiology in Nigeria through in-depth examination of human-wildlife interfaces of people who have had monkeypox and live in areas with high risk of zoonotic transmission. We are using mixed-methods ethnographic research to identify and describe activities that might pose a risk for primary (zoonotic) transmission of MPX from reservoir hosts to humans. We expect the results to help generate hypotheses for further investigation of risk factors for MPX transmission alongside ecological and epidemiological studies. 

Research is be conducted in collaboration with the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), Nigeria Centers for Disease Control (NCDC), and a Nigeria-based research team.

Lassa outbreak response: early intervention and community response capacity 

In collaboration with the OVEL project (PIs Jonathan Heeney [Cambridge] and Christian Happi [ACEGID, Nigeria]) and funded by the Wellcome trust, this mixed-methods research investigates risk factors for zoonotic transmission of Lassa virus and barriers to care for Lassa fever.

Human and Rodent Ecology In the Context of Lassa Fever


Nigeria experiences annual outbreaks of Lassa fever, yet limited information exists on human interactions with rodent reservoirs  the risk factors for Lassa virus transmission generally.  This has severely limited our ability to communicate risks and establish effective prevention strategies across the vast socioecological contexts in which Lassa exists.  Our qualitatively driven research offers an in-depth analysis of risk factors for zoonotic transmission of Lassa. We hope results from our ongoing research will help identify entry points for evidence based and culturally appropriate risk communication and intervention in Nigeria. 

Lassa Fever Health Seeking Behavior

Lassa epidemiology and control is severely limited by heterogeneity in availability of and access to diagnostic and treatment facilities. Barriers exist within communities and health systems that together shape health seeking behavior and health care. Understanding local perceptions of health risks and their socioecological context is necessary to inform effective and sustainable health policies and build robust health systems. Through qualitatively driven mixed methods research, we aim to understand how local knowledge of Lassa and concepts of illness shape health seeking behavior and health care, as well as how these interactions are modified by structural barriers limiting access to diagnostic and treatment facilities within a Lassa endemic region of Nigeria. Results will help improve the access to health care and health system strengthening. Led by Dr. Métrey Tiv.

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