Ecological solutions to human disease problems

There are at least 1400 parasites and pathogens of humans, of which >80% are “environmentally transmitted”, requiring environmental stages or passage through non-human hosts in order to infect humans. Modern medical tools – like drugs and vaccines – can fall short of achieving desired health outcomes for these diseases. Research in the Wood Lab focuses on using cutting-edge ecological techniques to develop solutions for these otherwise intractable public health problems.

Parasitic diseases remain a major cause of death and disability in the developing world. Most of these “neglected tropical diseases” (NTDs) are worms with complex life cycles that connect them – and their human hosts – intimately with the environment. We work on schistosomiasis, a water-borne NTD that affects more than 200 million people worldwide. Our research focuses on the spatial scale of schistosomiasis transmission and aims to inform practical, ecologically based approaches to disease control. This work is conducted in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team – The Upstream Alliance – and together we unravel the complex associations between the parasites, their human, livestock, and snail hosts, and environmental and socio-economic context.

 

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