Origins of epidemics

The challenge

High risk biological agent events, epidemics and bioterrorism are issues we are increasingly facing in the 21st century. It is important to improve surveillance systems, rapid epidemic intelligence, modelling, risk analysis, policy, capacity building, health leadership and stakeholder engagement to enable early identification and differentiation of epidemics of natural or unnatural origin.

The project

The Origins of Epidemics project is focused on developing a series of advanced risk analysis tools for the rapid surveillance, risk prediction, sensitive differentiation between natural and unnatural disease outbreaks, and preparedness for bioterrorism.

The method

Based on existing risk analysis tools, such as the Grunow-Finke epidemiological assessment tool for bioterrorism detection, we are creating new criteria, calibrating and refining tools with validation against various epidemic scenarios. We are also conducting novel syndromic surveillance through EPIWATCH, health intelligence, mathematical modelling, risk analysis and phylogeography to determine origins of epidemics. 

The results

We are developing risk assessment tools for determining the origin of epidemics with high sensitivity and specificity, building on our past work in this area. 

The impact

The refined tools will be integrated into routine outbreak investigation and epidemic response to provide practical, tested and rigorously researched results for public health institutions and government agencies responsible for epidemic intelligence, outbreak response and biosecurity. The project will be a major contribution to health security from pandemic and bioterrorism threats.