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 zoonotic – of animal origin. 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. Questions remain about the role of environmental conditions on the spread of COVID-19. 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 many projects related to infectious diseases and the interactions between chemical exposures and infectious disease outcomes.

Examples of departmental research on global climate change and health:

  • Environmental pathways of chicken-sourced enteropathogens in Mozambique
  • Impacts of Early Exposure to Arsenic on Infectious Disease Outcomes in Bangladeshi Children
  • The impact of improved water supply on enteric pathogen infection, gut microbiome, enteric dysfunction, diarrhea, and growth faltering in children in Mozambique

  • Pathogenic  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 Faculty and Research Interests

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

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

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 524

Risk Assessment I


EH 583/ ENVS 483

Spatial Analysis in Disease Ecology


EHS 750

Environmental Determinants of Infectious Disease


EPI 517/ GH 517

Case Studies in Infectious Disease Epidemiology


EPI 562/ GH 518

Emerging Infectious Diseases


EPI 569

Concepts and Methods in Infectious Disease Epidemiology


EPI 570 

Infectious Disease Dynamics: Theories and Models 


GH 511

International Infectious Diseases


Chen, Dehao -  "Zoonotic Transmission Dynamics of Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome in Urban Guangzhou, China." Advisor: Gonzalo Vasquez-Prokopec

Fagerli, Kristen - “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

Matson, Zachary - "Impact of crowding on the antibiotic resistance of carriage isolates of Streptococcus pneumoniae from healthy Peruvian children in the pre-PCV7 period." Advisor: Karen Levy

Mitchell, Miranda - "Transmission dynamics of Bartonella spp. in cave-dwelling bats and bat flies in Costa Rica." Advisor: Thomas Gillespie

Rainey, Andrew - "Biogeographical Analysis of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in United States Wastewater." Advisor: Karen Levy

Yoshihara, Masato - "Family Activity Space Overlap as a Risk Factor for Vector-Borne Disease Transmission." Advisor: Gonzalo Vasquez-Prokopec

 Electronic Theses and Dissertations 

Prasher, Joanna - "Critical monitoring and evaluation data elements for real-time decision making in the CDC's infectious disease emergency responses."

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

Zielke, Katherine - "Water source, water treatment and associations with diarrheal disease burden in mother-infant pairs in El Alto, Bolivia."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Disease Intern (Atlanta, GA): Work in the One Health Office at CDC NCEZID Branch. Project researches and develops resources to improve academic and public understanding of zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases and uses a standardized protocol to extract data from literature and build a database of material. Create a database that will be cleaned, analyzed and used to develop advisory materials on specific infectious diseases.

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. 

Institute for Public Health, Research Analyst (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia): Work with a team of Research Scientist from the Communicable Disease Division at Institute for Public Health in Kuala Lumpur. Carry out investigation and work on a project proposal for the burden of typhoid in Klang Valley, Malaysia that includes literature search, data collection from the respective health departments. Assist research scientists on the secondary data analysis on typhoid cases data and to estimate the burden of typhoid fever in Klang Valley. Participate in a global dengue control scoping review that involves extensive literature search and manuscript write-up. 

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.