|Thesis abstract: |
The focus of my research activity will be on developing novel models for waterborne diseases, a group of infections caused by pathogenic microorganisms that most commonly are transmitted in contaminated fresh water. Typically, infection occurs during bathing, washing, drinking, or feeding contaminated food. For these reasons, waterborne diseases are especially endemic in low-income populations in developing regions and represent a serious public health problem where people lack access to clean water and adequate health care resources.
The specific aim of my research project is to include in the models some important features of the transmission cycle that are still underestimated, yet crucial, such as the impact of social and environmental conditions. These models will be used to analyze transmission patterns in different settings, ranging from purely theoretical ones to real case studies. Methods to assess the effectiveness of control strategies will also be evaluated.
The main application will be on schistosomiasis, a waterborne parasitic disease caused by a snail-transmitted trematode. The developed models will incorporate both the biological complexity associated with the parasite¿s life cycle (including secondary hosts) and the mechanisms that influence the spatiotemporal dynamics of the disease. Specifically, mathematical modeling will be used to identify the role of social interactions and physical interconnections between populations in sustaining the transmission of the disease.