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Evolution of Infections

Professor Angela McLean

My work concerns the dynamics and evolution of infections. I am interested in how quickly infections grow inside individuals, and also how fast they spread amongst individuals.

One of my projects asks if we can design individualised treatment regimens for people with chronic viral infections. When infected people start treatment with anti-viral drugs the amount of virus in their blood falls dramatically. That fall can be measured by taking frequent blood samples, and the resulting curve contains much information about the infection process inside that person. In principle it should be possible to tailor the treatment for a patient based upon the shape of this curve during their first few days and weeks on anti-virals. To do so requires a good understanding of the population dynamics of the virus inside that person. My research group collaborates with clinicians and virologists to gain that understanding.

In a second project we ask how immune-driven evolution of HIV is causing new variants to spread through the human population. This project requires simultaneous consideration of evolution inside people and infectious transmission between people. We have made new mathematical models of the epidemiology and evolution of HIV that let us combine diverse types of data to create a better understanding of how HIV evolved as it emerged to become an established human infection.