Dr Sarah Hill has been awarded a £300,000 Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship to research how yellow fever virus spreads amongst wild animal populations and spills over into humans. Her research will help improve our ability to predict and control outbreaks of yellow fever virus and other zoonotic diseases.
Zoonotic virus outbreaks are intensifying worldwide because of climate change, land-use changes and population growth. Escalation of yellow fever virus (YFV) is particularly concerning because – despite widespread vaccination- it still kills tens of thousands of people every year. Severe under-reporting has prevented deeper understanding of how YFV spreads. We know strikingly little about the mosquito-mediated transmission of YFV transmission amongst wild non-human primates, or how YFV escapes this reservoir to cause large outbreaks of human disease.
Recent breakthroughs in virus genome sequencing and analysis offer new opportunities to generate data and reconstruct YFV transmission behaviour from sparsely sampled cases. Sarah’s goal is to combine and exploit these new approaches to improve our understanding of YFV. She will implement innovative sequencing strategies to more effectively obtain YFV genomes from undersampled populations, and use these data to improve computational models of transmission. Her research will identify what drives virus spread and improve our ability to predict and control outbreaks of YFV and other zoonotic diseases.