Dr Amber Barton
SEED Postdoctoral Fellow
Interdisciplinary approaches to the epidemiology of enteric infections and neglected tropical diseases
Collectively, enteric infections and neglected tropical diseases cause an estimated two million deaths a year and 100 million years of healthy life lost. This would be equivalent to the entire population of London each losing 11 years of healthy life. Children are most affected, and indirect effects such as costs to caregivers and malnutrition can have a major impact on low- and middle-income countries.
One major roadblock to developing effective interventions is a limited understanding of the biology of these diseases. How do they spread and how do we block this? Why might one person be more susceptible to disease than another? What role do asymptomatic infections play in transmission, and why do asymptomatic cases exist in the first place?
Pathogen genomics has skyrocketed as a public health tool during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and presents a good starting point for answering these questions. However I believe the integration of multiple technologies, disciplines and data types will be necessary to harness the full power of genomics. This approach can maximise the biological knowledge generated from samples kindly contributed by clinical study participants.
In my current research this takes the form of working to integrate pathogen genome sequencing with epidemiological data and approaches to infer risk factors for transmission. In future I am interested in investigating the interaction between host, pathogen and microbiome genomics in disease, and in the use of multi-omics to identify mechanisms of protection.