Infectious Disease Epidemiology Research

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MERS corona virus (Credit: Imperial College London)

Infectious diseases are responsible for millions of deaths each year, especially in the developing world.   Our program has expertise in a variety of infectious diseases including those that are sexually transmitted diseases, air-borne and vector-borne.   There are two NIH training grants that support students.  We have close collaborations with the Division of Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine, the Department of Geography, the Carolina Population Center, FHI, the North Carolina Department of Health, and many triangle-based research organizations.

REQUIRED COURSES:

  • Epid 751 (Fall, 3 credits): Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases
  • Epid 755 (Spring, 3 credits): Introduction to Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • Epid 894 (Spring, 1 credit): Infectious Disease Epidemiology Journal Club

ELECTIVE COURSES:

  • Epid 753 (Fall, 3 credits) Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases at the Level of the Community
  • Epid 756 (Spring, 3 credits) Control of Infectious Diseases in Developing Countries
  • Epid 757 (Fall, 3 credits) Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries
  • Epid 764 (Spring, 1-2 credits) Hospital Epidemiology
  • Epid 799 (Spring, 3 credits) Advanced Methods in Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • Epid 799 (Spring, 2-3 credits) Vaccine epidemiology

FACULTY

(* indicates primary advisors for ID epidemiology PhD students)


Dr. Allison Aiello

Dr. Allison Aiello

Dr. Allison Aiello, Professor of Epidemiology and Social Epidemiology Program Leader. Her research investigates socioeconomic and race/ethnic disparities in infectious diseases, the relationship between infection and chronic diseases, and prevention of respiratory infections in the community setting.


Dr. Ralph Baric

Dr. Ralph Baric

Dr. Ralph Baric, Professor of Epidemiology and Microbiology & Immunology, is an internationally recognized expert on Noroviruses and SARS coronavirus. His group has been interested in aspects of both host and viral genetics and how they relate to understanding pathogenesis and developing control tools. His research also focuses on identifying the molecular mechanisms governing emerging virus cross species transmission and pathogenesis in humans and seeks to identify the viral and host determinants which influence susceptibility to infectious diseases.


Dr. Myron Cohen, J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and Public Health at UNC. Dr. Cohen’s research focuses on the transmission and prevention of transmission of HIV, with emphasis on the role played by STD co-infections. In 2005, Dr. Cohen received an NIH MERIT Award for ongoing support of this work. Much of Dr. Cohen’s research has been conducted in resource constrained countries, especially in the African country of Malawi and in the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Cohen serves as the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the China CIPRA (located at the China CDC), and as co-director of an NIH Ellison Fellowship Program at the National STD Center in Nanjing China.


Dr. Stephen Cole

Dr. Stephen Cole

Dr. Stephen Cole, Professor, is interested in study designs and analyses that accurately estimate parameters of central interest to population-health scientists, such as the risk. These study designs include randomized experiments, pseudoexperiments (i.e., observational studies), and thought-experiments (e.g., simulation studies). Substantively, Dr. Cole is interested in infectious diseases, primarily HIV, and cancer. He is principal investigator on a NIH-funded R01 to develop quantitative methods in HIV. He is co-founder of the UNC Causal Inference Research Group (causal.unc.edu), chair of the CNICS Epidemiology and Biostatistics core (uab.edu/cnics), associate director of the UNC CFAR Biostatistics core, and investigator on the UNC WIHS cohort site. He is also editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology, chartered member of the NIH AIDS and Clinical Epidemiology study section, and 2015 winner of the American College of Epidemiology Award for Outstanding Contributions to Epidemiology.


Dr. Michael Emch

Dr. Michael Emch

Dr. Michael Emch, Professor and Chair, Department of Geography, Professor of Epidemiology, and Fellow at the Carolina Population Center. His specialty is in health geography/ spatial epidemiology and his research uses geographic information systems (GIS), satellite remote sensing, and spatial modeling techniques. He leads the Spatial Health Research Group (spatialhealth.web.unc.edu/) which conducts research that explores spatio-temporal patterns of disease, primarily infectious diseases of the developing world. He uses diverse statistical and spatial analytical methods are informed by theory from the fields of health geography, epidemiology, ecology, and others. These theories and methods are used to examine various topics such as the role of population-environment drivers in pathogen evolution, how social connectivity contributes to disease incidence, and using environmental indicators to predict disease outbreaks.


Dr. Steve Meshnick

Dr. Steve Meshnick

Dr. Steven Meshnick*, Professor of Epidemiology and Microbiology & Immunology, is the ID program leader. He has been working in Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Thailand and Cambodia. He has published over 300 papers and is PI of 4 NIH grants. The major focus of his laboratory is the molecular epidemiology of vector-borne diseases. His group works on the pathogenesis of malaria during pregnancy and molecular methods for surveillance of malaria and drug-resistant malaria. They are using next-generation sequencing methods to understand malaria diversity, immunity and evolution. In addition, the group has been studying the prevention of tick-borne disease with permethrin-treated clothing and how the tick’s microbiome affect its ability to transmit disease.


Dr. Bill Miller

Dr. Bill Miller

Dr. William Miller*, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, is interested in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection. He is involved in ongoing projects both domestically and internationally examining approaches to improve the identification of persons with acute HIV infection and identify persons unaware of their HIV infection. He has ongoing research to prevent HIV infection among persons who inject drugs.


Dr. Sonia Napravnik

Dr. Sonia Napravnik

Dr. Sonia Napravnik, Research Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine, and an Epidemiologist with the UNC Center for AIDS Research and the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit. She has primary expertise in the treatment and prevention of HIV-infection both domestically and internationally, including work in Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and Puerto Rico. Her ongoing research focuses on both intended and unintended effects of antiretroviral therapy especially drug resistance, improving HIV testing and medical care access, and applying newer epidemiologic methodologies to the study of HIV.


Dr. Brian Pence

Dr. Brian Pence

Dr. Brian Wells Pence*, Associate Professor, focuses on the links between mental health and HIV-related behaviors and health outcomes in the Southeastern US and in Africa. He is PI or co-PI on three current or recent NIH grants, including a randomized clinical trial to assess whether depression treatment integrated into HIV clinical care in the US improves HIV medication adherence; a study to define the epidemiology of depression among HIV patients in Cameroon and pilot-test a nurse-delivered depression treatment intervention; and a study to define the impact of antidepressant treatment on HIV outcomes among HIV patients in the CNICS network of 8 large clinical sites across the US. With Kathryn Whetten, he recently co-authored the second edition of You’re the First One I’ve Told: The Faces of HIV in the Deep South (Rutgers University Press, 2013).


Dr. Audrey Pettifor

Dr. Audrey Pettifor

Dr. Audrey Pettifor*, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and faculty fellow Carolina Population Center, is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on determinants of HIV/STI infection in sub-Saharan Africa with the goal of identifying modifiable risk factors and developing novel interventions to prevent new HIV infections—particularly in young women. Dr Pettifor has expertise on sexual behavior, HIV prevention, HIV testing, and structural interventions among adolescents and young adults in sub-Saharan Africa and has published extensively in the area of HIV and sexual behavior among youth in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Pettifor has worked in South Africa for close to 20 years and has also conducted research in Malawi, Madagascar, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Demographic Republic of Congo. She is co-chair the HPTN adolescent science committee and has published over 80 articles in peer reviewed journals, primarily on HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Pettifor serves on the editorial board of both AIDS and Behavior and the Journal STD.


Dr. Kimberly Powers

Dr. Kimberly Powers

Dr. Kimberly Powers*, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, uses epidemiological, statistical, and mathematical modeling methods to study HIV transmission, with the overarching goal of informing HIV prevention strategies. Her work focuses on improving understanding of the behavioral and biological determinants of HIV transmission, developing efficient methods for detecting acute HIV infection, and using mathematical models to predict the impact of HIV transmission prevention strategies. Ongoing projects aim to inform measurement of HIV incidence and prevalence, as well as HIV treatment coverage and impact.


Dr. Jennifer Smith

Dr. Jennifer Smith

Dr. Jennifer Smith*, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Smith’s research over the past 20 years has focused on epidemiological studies of infections and cancer. The focus of her research is on HPV infection and cervical cancer prevention worldwide via screening and prophylactic vaccines among women with limited access to care. She has a Doctorate degree from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Smith is Director of Cervical Cancer-Free Coalition. and has published over 210 articles in international peer-reviewed journals, of which over 170 are related to HPV infection and HPV-associated diseases, including cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and penile cancers. She is a mentor for the Cancer Control Education Program and for the Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar program, an Associate Editor of Sexually Transmitted Infections and on the editorial board of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.


Dr. Lola Stamm, Associate Professor, is an expert on emerging and re-emerging bacterial pathogens. Her current research focuses on determining the role of the Toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated innate immune response during bacterial infection and identifying immunomodulatory strategies to promote pathogen clearance and prevent disease.


Dr. James Thomas

Dr. James Thomas

Dr. James Thomas, Associate Professor, studies social forces affecting the distribution of HIV and STDs. His research includes the effects of high rates of incarceration on STD rates in North Carolina counties, and on census tracts in two particular counties of the state; the relationship between community characteristics and STD rates in Chicago neighborhoods; and the effects of HIV prevention agency networks on HIV prevention in North Carolina.


Dr. David Weber

Dr. David Weber

Dr. David Weber, Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Epidemiology serves as the Epidemiologist and Research Subject Officer for the UNC General Clinical Research Center. He also serves as the Medical Director of the UNC Health Care Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Associate Director of the NC Statewide Program in Infection Control and Epidemiology. His research interests include environmental pathogens (with Dr. Mark Sobsey), infections in child care (Dr. Jonathan Kotch), and healthcare-associated infections (with Dr. William Rutala).


Dr. Sharon Weir

Dr. Sharon Weir

Dr. Sharon Weir, Research Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, is a Carolina Population Fellow at the Carolina Population Center. Her focus is HIV surveillance and monitoring and evaluation of HIV prevention programs in developing countries for most at risk populations. She works with the MEASURE Evaluation Project at the Carolina Population Center as a senior advisor on key populations, leads the UNC team under the PEPFAR funded Linkages Project, and leads the UNC team under the Gates-funded Monitoring, Evaluation and Surveillance of HIV (MESH) Consortium.


Dr. Daniel Westreich

Dr. Daniel Westreich

Dr. Daniel Westreich*, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, studies HIV and its intersection with women’s reproductive health, and (separately) with chronic diseases. Projects including assessing the impact of the impact of hormonal contraception on risk of HIV acquisition and the impact of smoking on long-term outcomes of HIV treatment. Additional work examines the impact of HIV-related tuberculosis in adults, HPV-HIV co-infection, outcomes of antiretroviral therapy general. In addition, Dr. Westreich develops epidemiologic methodology to enable better translation of scientific results into public health policy, and methods for causal inference in observational data. He conducts research in both the United States and South Africa.


Additional Information

Infectious Disease Additional Information
Introduction

Infectious diseases (ID) remain key public health problems. In the developing world, diarrheal infections, respiratory infections, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are the principal causes of morbidity and mortality. Globally, pneumonia, meningitis, and nosocomial infections remain serious and costly health problems. Global travel and migration increase everyone’s susceptibility to epidemic and emerging diseases, from both natural (e.g., bird flu) and deliberate (terrorism) causes. The emergence and dissemination of drug resistant microorganisms represent an expanding threat. At the same time, our abilities to develop and deliver new drugs and vaccines to control these diseases have also increased. Infectious disease epidemiologists are needed to improve surveillance, identify newly emerging infections, understand transmission dynamics, and develop and evaluate prevention and control strategies.

In addition, we have many collaborative ties with other institutions in the Triangle involved in ID work, including:

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the pathogenesis of infectious diseases including:
    • Route of pathogen entry
    • Host responses, including innate and acquired immunity
    • Relationship between disease and virulence factors, immune avoidance mechanisms, and pathogen host interactions
    • Host and microbial genetic factors
  2. Be familiar with the natural history of major infectious diseases;
  3. Understand the social, economic, behavioral, demographic and environmental determinants of infections, particularly emerging infections;
  4. Understand the causes for the enormous disproportion in infectious disease burden between resource poor and resource rich countries;
  5. Understand the special status in infectious disease prevention and control in marginalized populations such as prisoners, homeless, uneducated and persons of color;
  6. Be familiar with key surveillance systems and other sources of data relevant to the problem;
  7. Understand strategies for early detection and control of episodes of bioterrorism;
  8. Understand the principles and practices of outbreak investigation;
  9. Be familiar with the broad principles of infectious disease prevention including strategic use of prophylactic vaccines and vector control;
  10. Be familiar with the basic strategies for treatment of infectious diseases including use of antimicrobials;
  11. Understand the principles associated with infectious disease elimination;
  12. Be familiar with the broad principles of infectious disease modeling;
  13. Apply epidemiologic methods in the design, conduct and analysis of infectious disease epidemiologic studies;
  14. Communicate epidemiology concepts, methods and findings to community groups, state and local health departments, heath professionals and at-risk populations.

 

Courses

Required courses

EPID 751 EMERGING AND RE-EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES (3 credits) Dr. Stamm. (Can be waived if equivalent coursework or experience is demonstrated).
EPID 755 INTRODUCTION TO INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGY (3 credits) Drs. Pettifor and Meshnick.
EPID 894 INFECTIOUS DISEASE SEMINAR (1 credit) Dr. Meshnick.

Recommended courses

EPID 750 FUNDAMENTALS OF PUBLIC HEALTH SURVEILLANCE. (3 credits) Drs. Irwin, Horney and Alexander
EPID 753 PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT THE LEVEL OF THE COMMUNITY (3 credits) Dr. Leone.
EPID 754 MATHEMATICAL MODELING OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES (3 credits) Dr. Van Rie.
EPID 756 CONTROL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES (3 credits) Drs. Pettifor and Meshnick.
EPID 757 EPIDEMIOLOGY OF HIV/AIDS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES (3 credits) Drs. Behets and Weir
EPID 758 METHODS AND PRINCIPLES OF APPLIED INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGY (3 credits) Dr. Nelson.
EPID 759 METHODS IN FIELD EPIDEMIOLOGY (3 credits) Drs Yeatts, Horney, and Alexander)
EPID 764 EPIDEMIOLOGY OF HEALTHCARE ASSOCIATED INFECTIONS (1-2 credits) Dr. Weber.

 

Financial Support

Students are supported by a variety of means. Many students are supported by research assistantships existing from grants from the NIH or other sources.

In addition, the Department has an NIH T32 training grant entitled “Training in Infectious Disease Epidemiology”, which provides 2-years of support for graduate students, after finishing one year of the MSPH or PhD program.

Students also receive support from other training grants including a Sexually Transmitted Infection Training Grant, a Virology Training Grant, and two Fogarty training grants.

Students interested in applying for Training Grant funding should contact the Epidemiology Department Student Services.

Valerie Hudock
Jennifer Joyce Moore

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