Professor Neil Ferguson
Neil's research aims to improve understanding of the epidemiological factors and population processes shaping infectious disease spread in human and animal populations. A key practical focus is the analysis and optimisation of intervention strategies aimed at reducing transmission or disease burden. Much of his work is applied, informing disease control policy-making by public and global health institutions.
With recent advances in data availability (both epidemiological and molecular) and affordable high-performance computing, mathematical models of infectious disease spread now offer the potential to provide predictive, quantitative analyses of alternative disease control and treatment strategies, as well as qualitative insight into the complex non-linear processes shaping pathogen replication and evolution. An important strand of his research programme is therefore to develop the statistical and mathematical tools necessary for such increasingly sophisticated models to be rigorously tested and validated against epidemiological, molecular and experimental data. Professor Ferguson's research interests reflect his belief that comparative analyses of different host-pathogen systems can provide powerful insights into the population processes common to many infectious diseases, while highlighting how key differences in disease biology, route of transmission or host population structure determine observed differences in patterns of infection.
A major research interest throughout his career has been on developing mathematical models of the geographic spread of newly emergent pathogens - such as BSE/vCJD, foot and mouth disease, SARS and MERS, pandemic influenza, Ebola and ZIka - to examine containment and mitigation strategies. Building on earlier work, Professor Ferguson and colleagues founded the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling in 2008 to consolidate and enhance their work on emerging infections and its translation to public health policy-making.
A second major current research interest is the epidemilogy and control of major mosquito-borne diseases and 'flaviviruses' - a family of viruses which includes dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Professor Ferguson's group is assessing the disease burden, understanding how transmission intensity varies geographically and seasonally, and modelling the optimal use of current and novel interventions. This work has focused on two main research topics:
- The use of Wolbachia as a novel vector control measure
- The potential impact of dengue vaccine use