Infectious Disease Ecology

Many infectious diseases have environmental reservoirs and environmentally-mediated transmission pathways, and global environmental change is increasingly affecting patterns of infectious disease distribution.

The majority of emerging infectious diseases are caused by zoonotic pathogens. Vectorborne diseases like West Nile Virus and Chikungunya are spreading into new territories. New epidemics of cholera and other diseases are arising from natural disasters. Antibiotic resistance is on the rise as a result of animal husbandry practices. These represent just a few examples of the importance of the role that environmental factors play in determining the prevalence and spread of infectious diseases.

The scope of the field of environmental health is rapidly expanding to encompass exposures to infectious agents of disease in addition to more traditional toxicological exposures. This expansion represents an exciting development for the field. It allows for researchers to fully capture complex disease processes related to exposure to both pathogens and toxicants, as well as the interactions between these factors. 

Emory researchers are at the forefront of research in the environmental determinants of infectious diseases. Faculty at Rollins are engaged in cutting-edge work on topics related to water- and vector-borne diseases, antibiotic resistance, the gut microbiome, and OneHealth. Students in the department have the opportunity to engage in a multitude of projects related to infectious diseases and the interactions between chemical exposures and infectious disease outcomes.  

Examples of current faculty research on global climate change and health:

  • Impacts of Early Exposure to Arsenic on Infectious Disease Outcomes in Bangladeshi Children
  • Pathogenic E. coli, Gut Microbiome Composition, and Human Movement Patterns along a Rural-Urban Gradient in Ecuador

  • Interaction between infectious disease transmission and agricultural practices in the Senegal River Basin
  • Pathogen Introduction as a Threat to Endangered Primates
  • Urban Ecology of Vector-Borne Diseases

Infectious Disease Environmental Health Faculty and Research Interests

Tom Clasen, PhD, JD, Professor
Evaluation, global health, health outcomes, infectious disease, safe water, sanitation

Matt Freeman, PhD, Assistant Professor
Uptake and adoption, sustainability, and health impacts of water, sanitation, hygiene behaviors and technologies

Karen Levy, PhD, Assistant Professor
Safe water, infectious disease, microbial ecology, produce safety, global health, antibiotic resistance, climate change

Robert Breiman, MD (Global Health)

Thomas Gillespie, PhD (Environmental Sciences)

Uriel Kitron, PhD (Environmental Sciences)

Juan Leon, PhD (Global Health)

Ben Lopman, PhD (Epidemiology)

Christine Moe, PhD (Global Health)

Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, PhD (Environmental Sciences)

Justin Remais, PhD (University of California, Berkeley)

EH 547

Introduction to Microbial Risk Assessment


EH 583/ ENVS 483

Spatial Analysis in Disease Ecology


EHS 750

Environmental Determinants of Infectious Disease


EPI 540/GH 517

Case Studies in Infectious Disease Epidemiology


EPI 562 /GH 518

Emerging Infectious Diseases


EPI 590R

Infectious Disease Modeling


GH 511

International Infectious Diseases


Fagerli, Kristen (2016).  “Risk factors and clinical characteristics associated with Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli infection among children less than five years old with moderate-to severe diarrhea in rural western Kenya, 2008-2012.”  Advisor:  Karen Levy.

Belle, Jessica (2013). “Model approaches to evaluating potential mechanisms of parasite diffusion.” Advisor: Justin Remais

Wegner, Christopher (2013). “Human and animal behaviors as risk factors for diarrheal disease in rural Madagascar.” Advisor: Thomas Gillespie

Simmons, Kirsten (2012). “What is the duration of Immunity to Norovirus? A Mathematical modeling study.” Advisors: Juan Leon and Benjamin Lopman

Weigand, Jenna (2015).  “Evaluation of the enhanced surveillance protocol for the CDC bottle bioassay in malaria endemic regions of Africa.”

Rangarajan, Arjun (2013). “Economic analysis and modeling to inform program and policy for global immunization.”

Centre ValBio, Infectious Disease Researcher (Ranomafana, Madagascar): To collect stool samples from the livestock and the people from randomly selected villages and households from around Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. The fecal samples will be used to determine the prevalence of different soil transmitted helminths (STHs) using fecal flotation techniques. This data will be combined with anemia data collected by INSTAT to see if there is a relationship between STH burden and anemia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guest Researcher (Chamblee, Georgia): Researchers at the CDC Bioterrorism division are working to decrease the amount of time required to verify that annual influenza vaccination is able to confer immunity. The normal process takes months to complete. With new mass spectrometry techniques, the amount of time for this process can be shortened to a couple weeks. 

Northrop Grumman, Public Health Analyst: Provide technical assistance and consultation in the design and development of a national study evaluating tuberculosis surveillance methods.

CDC Entomology Branch, Regular Fellow: Research mosquito interaction with bed nets as well as physical durability of bed nets using both external and internal data. Also involves use of the software packages Observer XT behavior analysis software, Image for image analysis, Excel, and R for data analysis.