Our current research applies population survey methods, entomological field sampling, molecular analyses, and GIS to examine seasonal and spatial patterns of disease transmission, identify populations at risk, and evaluate the impact of interventions. We collaborate both locally and internationally with projects based in Canada, Tanzania and Benin.
Emerging vector-borne diseases in eastern Ontario, Canada
Climate and environmental changes are driving the emergence and re-emergence of mosquito- and tick-borne diseases in Canada, including West Nile virus and Lyme disease. The distribution and dynamics of disease vector populations largely define the patterns in disease transmission in terms of where and when human risk of infection occurs. Recognizing this, we are collecting and combining entomological, epidemiological and environmental data using geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial analysis. This allows us to predict potential hotspots of disease transmission and identify socio-ecological determinants of disease risk, in order to inform the targeting of disease surveillance, prevention and control strategies. We have a number of ongoing projects:
“Public health risk assessment tools for emerging vector-borne diseases” is funded by grants from CIHR (2016-19 and 2019-23)
“Improved early warning for climate change driven emergence of Lyme disease in Eastern Ontario” (2017-2020), funded by PHAC
"Best practices for urban planning in the context of climate change and emerging tick-borne diseases" aka UPTick (2019-22), funded by PHAC's Infectious Diseases and Climate Change Fund
"Landscape ecology of vector-borne diseases", funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant (2019-2025).
We also conduct research on ticks and Lyme disease risk reduction as active members of the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network (CLyDRN) and as partners on the eTick.ca citizen surveillance initiative, and evaluate intervention strategies for tick management in collaboration with the National Capital Commission.
Malaria epidemiology and control in Tanzania
We are working with partners at the Pan-African Malaria Vector Research Consortium in Tanzania and the UK on the project "Effectiveness of different types of bi-treated long lasting insecticidal nets for control of malaria transmitted by pyrethroid resistant vectors in Tanzania". This project is based in North-West Tanzania where malaria is resurgent and where recent evidence from a cluster randomized trial showed that Olyset Plus, a long-lasting net (LN) incorporating a PBO synergist was able to control malaria transmission where standard pyrethroid LN were failing due to insecticide resistance. Several types of bi-treated net incorporating either a synergist or novel insecticide (and evaluated in small scale entomological trials) demonstrate great potential to combat the threat and maintain control of malaria transmitted by resistant mosquitoes in Africa. This 4-year project, funded by the UK Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust Joint Global Health Trials Program, is a cluster randomized trial comparing four vector control interventions involving the most promising new generation LN to prevent malaria in areas where vector mosquitoes are resistant to pyrethroids. These interventions are based on novel bi-treated LNs incorporating mixtures of insecticides or insecticide synergists to improve efficacy.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on malaria control in Benin
Recognizing the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on populations globally, we are working with partners at the Centre de Recherche Entomologique (CREC) in Cotonou, Benin, LSHTM, UK, and the Pan-African Malaria Vector Research Consortium, on the project "Assessing the impact of COVID-19 response on malaria control and malaria burden in rural Benin ". The main goal of this research is to understand the strategies being implemented to mitigate COVID-19 spread in Benin and the impact of these efforts on malaria control at the community and health system levels. The project will leverage an ongoing malaria intervention study in the health zone Covè, Zagnanado, Oiunhi in central Benin to generate timely knowledge and inform effective tailoring of malaria control strategies during the COVID-19 response and future health emergencies.
Zika virus transmission dynamics and mitigation strategies in Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador
In response to the recent emergence of Zika virus in the Americas, and the health threat that ZIKV and other arboviruses pose to vulnerable populations, we undertook a project from 2016-2020 with Canadian and Latin American partners on the project “Assessing ZIKV transmission dynamics and mitigation strategies: A multidisciplinary approach”, funded by the CIHR-IDRC Canada-Latin America and Caribbean Zika Virus Research Program. Our project aimed to characterize the ecological transmission dynamics of ZIKV and design integrated ZIKV mitigation approaches. To attain this objective, we had two specific aims: (1) To characterize ZIKV vector populations, viral genetic diversity and ecological transmission dynamics in three different eco-epidemiological settings, and predict areas at risk for ZIKV transmission across the LAC region, and (2) to identify a range of integrated ZIKV intervention strategies and assess their predicted comparative effectiveness, economic impact and cost-effectiveness using a multiscale computer simulation model.
Improving maternal and child health in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among all countries in Africa and indeed worldwide. The causes of maternal death are largely preventable through early detection and management of complications, however underlying social causes of maternal mortality can cause delays in accessing maternal health care services. To identify barriers and solutions, we worked with partners in Ethiopia on a project funded by the IDRC-CIHR-GAC Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) program, from 2015-2021. We aimed to evaluate the impact of community-based interventions on maternal healthcare service utilization and maternal and newborn health outcomes. Our study focused on two intervention packages, namely improved maternity waiting areas and training of community and religious leaders, using a cluster-randomized controlled trial design in 24 primary health care units.