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Symposium: Ecological and Evolutionary drivers of pathogen emergence

13 - 14 June 2023, Penryn campus, Cornwall, UK

This #esi10 event is organised by the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) with the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC).

Pathogen host shifts are a major source of emerging infectious diseases in humans, animals and plants. Despite the importance of understanding how pathogens are shared between hosts, there is still much to learn about the ecological and evolutionary drivers of pathogen emergence.

This two-day symposium will showcase the work being done by researchers from the University of Exeter and beyond providing an opportunity to discuss the cutting edge research with national and international colleagues.  This symposium will showcase current work, develop new research areas and build new partnerships.

‌Organising Committee: Ben Longdon, Camille Bonneaud, Michiel Vos, Bridget Watson, Amy Lloyd-Foster, Sarah Ashton, Amrita Sharma, Jane Wills.

A recording of the event can be viewed here:

08:30-09:25 Registration, tea/coffee
09:25-09:30 Introduction

Plenary I – Jemma Geoghegan, University of Otago

The role of host ecology in shaping the virome

Barbara Tschirren, University of Exeter

Borrelia Resistance Evolution in a Changing World
10:45-11:30 Tea/coffee

Joe Westley, University of Exeter

Can a pathogens’ own immune system limit their ability to become drug resistant?

David Redding, Zoological Society of London

Climate change is driving a general expansion of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases risk

Rowan Durrant, University of Glasgow

Rabies virus mutations affecting evolutionary rate and host specificity

Megan Wallace, University of Exeter

Drivers of virus prevalence and host range in a wild Drosophila community

Luke Lear, University of Exeter

Copper selects for siderophore-mediated virulence in Pseudomonas aeruginosa
12:45-14:00 Lunch

Plenary II – Roman Biek, Univeristy of Glasgow

The role of host and landscape heterogeneity in pathogen emergence

Greg Albery, Georgetown University

How natural disasters drive wildlife disease and facilitate disease emergence
15:15- 15:45 Tea/coffee

Elitsa Penkova, University of Exeter

Social interactions and the collective detoxification of β-lactam antibiotics in an insect model

Sarah Walsh, University of Exeter

The host phylogeny determines viral infectivity and replication across Staphylococcus host species


Richard Lindsay, University of Exeter

Metabolic efficiency reshapes the seminal relationship between pathogen growth rate and virulence  

Matt Arnold, University of Glasgow

Short linear protein motifs as a compact representation of viral host adaptation
16:45-18:30 Drinks reception, nibbles and poster session
18:30 Go to the pub in Falmouth
08:30-09:25 Tea/coffee
09:25-09:30 Introduction

Plenary III – Katie Hampson, University of Glasgow

Drivers of within and between species transmission of canine rabies

Amy Sweeny, University of Sheffield

Synzootics: the impacts of coinfection on emerging disease dynamics 
10:45-11:30 Tea/coffee

Bridget Watson, University of Exeter

CRISPR immunity evolution is influenced by phage infection rates and bacterial growth densities.

Xav Harrison, University of Exeter

Amphibian Declines and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd): Not All Hosts and Pathogens are Equal

Liam Brierley, University of Liverpool

Trade-offs and consequences of parasite specialism from tissues to taxa

Camille Bonneaud, University of Exeter

What studies in natural populations can teach us about pathogen emergence

Ryan Imrie, University of Exeter

Investigating the outcomes of virus coinfection within and across host species
12:45-14:00 Lunch

Plenary IV – Konstans Wells, University of Swansea

Host shifting at variable interfaces

Lucy Weinert, University of Cambridge

The role of wild animals in the evolution of the human pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus
15:15- 15:45 Tea/coffee

Kimberley Hockings, University of Exeter

Unravelling leprosy transmission pathways in an agroforest landscape in Guinea-Bissau

Margaret Bolton, University of Exeter

Greater biodiversity at low latitudes leads to increased host density and host-parasite interaction

Thomas O'Shea-Wheller, University of Exeter

How Human Activity Triggered a Lethal Honey Bee Pandemic

Ben Raymond, University of Exeter

Adapting insect pathogens to difficult to infect hosts: the importance of population structure and social interactions
16:45 Walk down to Verdant brewery in Penryn for drinks and pizza

Alessandra Giacomini, Swansea University

Pathogen-microbiome dynamics in small mammals across an urban-rural ecotone


Benoit J Pons, ESI, University of Exeter

Antibiotics that affect translation antagonize phage infectivity by interfering with anti-CRISPR.


Emile Michels, CEC, University of Exeter

Do invasive species amplify zoonotic pathogens?


Hongbo Sun, CEC, University of Exeter

Patterns of Susceptibility to bacterial pathogens across host species


Jay Ringger, ESI, University of Exeter

The advantages of a CRISPR-Cas9 plasmid immune system in inter-plasmid competition


Mark Hanson, CEC, University of Exeter

The microbiome shapes the host, not just vice versa: evolutionary implications for health and disease


Tamsin Harper, CEC, University of Exeter

Drivers of outbreak severity in poultry farming and risks to wildlife


Tatiana Dimitriu, ESI, University of Exeter

Efficiency of bacterial innate defenses against resistance plasmid acquisition


Lisa Butt, LSI, University of Exeter

Coevolution is Instrumental for the Persistence of Specialist Phage in Multi-Species Communities


Robyn Manley, University of Exeter

The evolution of phage resistance and attenuation of virulence in bacterial hosts


"The role of host ecology in shaping the virome"

Dr Jemma Geoghegan

Evolutionary Virologist, University of Otago, New Zealand

Abstract: New Zealand is a unique place to study the evolution of viruses. Separated from Gondwana around 84 million years ago, many of New Zealand’s native hosts have lived in isolation, likely harbouring novel and highly divergent viruses. New Zealand’s fauna therefore provides a powerful natural experiment to evaluate the key genetic and ecological parameters that affect viral evolution. Specifically, the unusual amalgam of native and invasive species, with well-documented history of invasive introduction, provide a unique opportunity to determine the factors that contribute to viral host-jumping over ecological timescales. We sample animal hosts such as birds, fish, reptiles and mammals to uncover what viruses they harbour, determine how their viruses have evolved over time and how their ecology and life history may promote viral host-jumping. Overall, we aim to reveal more of the unexplored virosphere, uncover potential disease-causing viruses affecting wildlife, and identify factors that shape the virome.

Biography: Dr Jemma Geoghegan leads the Virus Evolution lab at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Her research involves using metagenomics to reveal the diversity, structure and evolution of the virosphere; examining the evolution of major viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2; and developing new analytical and computational approaches to analyse aspects of virus evolution. A major focus of this research is determining the fundamental patterns and processes of viral evolution, ecology and emergence.

"Host shifting at variable interfaces"

Dr Konstans Wells

Lecturer (Research), Biosciences, Swansea University, UK

Abstract: Emerging infectious diseases are often caused by host shifting of pathogens from a reservoir to a spillover host. It is assumed that the key drivers of host shifting and pathogen spillover are anthropogenic changes in land use and climate. Among other eco-evolutionary processes, anthropogenic changes pose variable conditions in ever-changing ‘disease landscapes’ of pathogen spread within and among different host species and across spatiotemporal scales. This talk will present some of my previous and ongoing research on disease spread within single species and among multi-host interfaces and discuss insights and shortfalls for better predicting and managing pathogen spillover and host shifting in under variable environmental conditions.

Biography: Dr Konstans Wells leads the Biodiversity and Health Ecology group at Swansea University. His research interests are centred around the global change impact on host-parasite interactions, invasive species, biodiversity and health ecology.  He combines multivariate ecological and eco-epidemiological modelling with field-based research for optimizing conservation and pest control efforts and the prevention of disease spread under different environmental scenarios and policy schemes. 

"The role of host and landscape heterogeneity in pathogen emergence Professor of Disease Ecology and Molecular Epidemiology"

Professor Roman Biek

Disease Ecology & Molecular Epidemiology, University of Glasgow, UK

Abstract: Infectious disease emergence tends to be caused by pathogens that can infect multiple host species and that are often maintained across complex ecological settings. What are the features that allow pathogens to successfully establish in novel host species? And how does variation in the environment (e.g. changes in land use and host communities,) affect the ability of pathogens to emerge and spread? To address these questions, I will use examples from our research on viral and bacterial diseases and highlight the importance of drawing on multiple lines of inference, such as the integration of ecological, geographical and genetic information.

Biography: Roman Biek is based within the School of Biodiversity, One Health and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow. His work aims to understand how infectious organisms spread and persist in their respective host populations and how ecological factors, from host features to landscape heterogeneity, affect these processes. This research focuses on rapidly evolving pathogens such viruses and bacteria, for which genetic changes are thus tractable on observable time scales, and on diseases that are zoonotic or of animal health concern (e.g. rabies, Lyme disease, anthrax, bovine TB).

Drivers of within and between species transmission of canine rabies

Professor Katie Hampson

Infectious Disease Ecology, University of Glasgow, UK

Abstract: Rabies can infect all mammals. However, typically a single species drives rabies transmission, while others species are less frequently infected via spillover. In Tanzania, we have shown domestic dogs to be the primary rabies reservoir but have found substantial variation in the role of jackals in sustaining transmission. Using several decades of contact tracing data from different parts of Tanzania we reconstruct transmission trees to examine within- and between-species transmission dynamics and potential for sustained spread in wildlife. We discuss the implications of these findings for preventing human rabies and the emergence of new rabies reservoirs.

Biography: Katie Hampson is Professor of Disease Ecology & Public Health. She completed her PhD at Princeton University in 2007, where she established a contact tracing study to investigate rabies transmission dynamics in northern Tanzania. She returned to the UK on a Wellcome Trust Fellowship and continued her rabies work with new field sites in Southern Tanzania. She joined the University of Glasgow in 2009 with continued Wellcome Trust support. She leads field research in Tanzania and works with a network of collaborators on fundamental and operational research.

We are proud to be celebrating the ESI’s first decade of successful operation and are holding a series of events to mark #esi10 throughout this academic year.