Andersen Lab

We are using infectious disease genomics to investigate how highly pathogenic viruses such as Zika, Ebola, and Lassa emerge and cause large-scale outbreaks. Using a combination of computational biology, experimentation, and field work, our hope is to transform outbreak response and change the way we develop vaccines and therapeutics.

Roots, Not Parachutes

Rooted_CollaborationsInfectious disease outbreaks continue to pose challenges to global health and security, prompting reactive countermeasures. Recently, severe outbreaks of Ebola and Zika virus were designated by the World Health Organization as “Public Health Emergencies of International Concern.” Other emerging viral pathogens have warranted similar attention, including virus outbreaks from Lassa, Chikungunya, avian influenza, Nipah, SARS, and MERS. Additionally, endemic human pathogens, such as dengue and West Nile virus, have expanded to new regions due to changing demographics and increased urbanization. Recently there has been a lot of focus on “Parachute Research“, where foreign researchers “parachute” into countries affected by infectious disease outbreaks, such as Zika and Ebola. These researchers then conduct research in isolation, and depart without creating sustainable infrastructure or a lasting impact in the affected countries. In a recent commentary in the journal Cell, we instead advocate for the creation of long-term sustainable collaborations in outbreak-prone areas of the world.

International research collaborations are essential in combating major public health emergencies. Failure to collaborate can delay critical findings, hamper outbreak response, and erode trust between institutions and nations. In the commentary, we draw on our experience establishing the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Disease in West Africa and show how “rooted” collaborations can assist during public health emergencies. Recognizing that many successful infectious disease research collaborations exist, we highlight their critical and often unheralded role in mitigating and preventing infectious disease outbreaks.

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Recent Posts / View All Posts

Ebola paper in Cell

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In a recent study published in Cell together with colleagues from UMass Worcester and the Broad, we show how a single mutation that occurred during the 2013-2016 Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa increased the ability of the virus to infect human cells. The mutation occurred in the Ebola virus glycoprotein and is located in the receptor binding domain of…

Review on Ebola evolution in Nature

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The 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was of unprecedented size and devastation, but also stands a landmark for infectious disease genomics. By sequencing virus genomes directly from patient samples, scientists are now able to investigate how viruses evolve, transmit between individuals, and spread across country borders during outbreaks, directly informing infection control.

Zika sequences from Miami mosquitoes

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Data here. Protocol here. Three pools of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes collected in Miami Beach on August 22nd and 23rd, 2016, were found to be infected with Zika virus. Through our collaborators, Scott Michael and Sharon Isern from Florida Gulf Coast University, we recently received samples of these mosquitoes for sequencing using our amplicon-based protocol for MiSeq.