• Hello!

    I'm Ana Bento

    Postdoctoral Research Associate

    CEID - University of Georgia

  • Who

    I'm a computational population biologist with a focus on ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. I earned my Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolution at Silwood Park, Imperial College London advised by Prof. Mick Crawley. After a MRC postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Christl Donnelly, at Imperial College, Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Department, I accepted a postdoctoral position at the Odum School of Ecology, UGA, to work with Prof. Pejman Rohani on the ecology & evolution of vaccine preventable childhood diseases.

    Why

    I'm fascinated by trying to understand the frequency, magnitude and shape of seasonal disease dynamics and the effects of heterogeneity in a population. Primarily, identifying evolutionary, ecological and demographic drivers of seasonality of infectious disease systems, with the aim of informing vaccination and other control public health policies.

    What

    My research focuses on the ecology of infectious diseases in humans and other animals. My research agenda seeks to understand the dynamics of biological populations and epidemics, focusing on how to bring experimental and observational data together with mathematical theory. The majority of my body of work has been on vaccine preventable diseases dynamics, with a view to understanding fundamental processes in ecology and evolution. My ongoing research falls into the following themes: (i) pathogen evolution and phylodynamics; (ii) seasonal disease transmission; (iii) maternal immunization; (iv) effects of vaccines.

    How

    My approach is to use theoretical models to understand how human and other animal systems behave generally, while simultaneously seeking to confront and validate models with data and make predictions. I use a combination of mathematical modelling, phylodynamics approaches and cutting-edge statistical inference techniques. With these methods I am able to make quantitative, testable predictions and confront process-based models with data. This is the central premise of my research program and the common thread of my work.

  • Ongoing projects

    A selection of projects I'm involved in much of my current research is based on understanding long-term data on spatio-temporal incidence patterns of microparasitic infections such as pertussis, measles and bovine tuberculosis. In my work, I formalize scientific hypotheses as mathematical models to make precise predictions and powerful inference.

    Bacterial Evolution & immune evasion

    Despite high routine vaccination coverage, pertussis has become the most prevalent vaccine-preventable disease in many countries, since the 1990s. While a plethora of candidate explanations for this resurgence remain hotly debated, two main ideas focus on vaccine driven bacterial adaptation and on the change from whole cell to acellular vaccines. We employ generalized linear models within a Bayesian coalescent framework to formally tests drivers of evolution in Bordetella pertussis populations, and the role of allele shifts in the resurgence of pertussis.

    In collaboration with Pejman Rohani & Aaron King

    Herd immunity erosion & the risk of spillover

    Vaccine hesitancy poses a clear barrier to covering the last mile in global disease eradication efforts for VPDs such as measles and pertussis. In this ongoing project we aim to characterize disease dynamics and vaccine coverage, estimate the epidemiological impact of vaccine hesitancy, and identify the spatial scale of herd immunity.

    Waning immunity

    Formulation of mathematical models to confront them with age stratified incidence data to learn about the mechanisms that operate in the dynamics of infectious diseases and the consequences of vaccination policies. Currently, I'm using England & Wales incidence times series of pertussis for different vaccine eras.

    Impact of maternal vaccination

    The historical pertussis literature indicates that maternal vaccination may potentially lead to a reduction in the efficacy of routine infant immunization. We studied the possible downstream consequences of maternal immunization.

    In collaboration with Pejman Rohani & Aaron King

    Influenza viral attributes

    Emergence and pathogenesis of influenza viruses, with a focus on identification of attributes which influence tropism, pathogenicity, and evolution of influenza viruses.

    In collaboration with Jasmina Luczo, Mark Tompkins & Pejman Rohani

    Within herd dynamics

    Epidemiological impact of control & immunisation activities on within-herd bovine tuberculosis outbreaks

    In collaboration with Christl Donnelly

    Evolution of antiviral resistance

    Computationally test the hypothesis that increased HA binding avidity is associated with increased rates of Oseltamivir resistance.

    In collaboration with Sam Scarpino & Deven Gokhale

    Environmental drivers of plant-herbivore dynamics

    In temperate regions the seasonal pattern of plant productivity and senescence is influenced strongly by the prevailing weather. For herbivores the onset of spring is particularly important for survival and growth, while subsequent plant production will potentially influence lactation and recovery of body mass before the next breeding season.

    In collaboration with Mick Crawley, Josephine Pemberton, Steve Albon & Dan Nussey

  • Selected Publications

    Core pertussis transmission groups in England and Wales: A tale of two eras

    Bento et al. 2018. Vaccine

    The relative role of age groups in pertussis transmission scenarios

    Bento et al. 2018. BioRxiv

    Epidemiological impact of control and immunisation activities on within-herd bovine tuberculosis outbreaks

    Bento & Donnelly. 2018. Forthcoming in Scientific Reports

    Maternal pertussis immunisation: clinical gains and epidemiological legacy

    Bento, King & Rohani. 2017. Eurosurveillance

    Forecasting epidemiological consequences of maternal immunization

    Bento & Rohani 2016. Clinical Infectious Diseases

    Physiological proteins in resource-limited herbivores experiencing a population die-off

    Garnier, Bento et al. 2017

    EpiJSON: A unifed data-format for epidemiology

    Finnie, Bento et al. 2016. Epidemics

    A review of epidemiological parameters from Ebola outbreaks to inform early public health decision-making

    Bento et al. 2015. Nature Scientific Data

    Exploration of the power of routine surveillance data to assess the impacts of industry-led badger culling on bovine tuberculosis incidence in cattle herds

    Bento et al. 2015. Veterinary Record

    Multiple pathways mediate the effects of climate change on maternal reproductive traits in a red deer population

    Stoffer, Bento et al. 2014. Ecology

    B. pertussis epidemiology, transmission & evolution in the vaccine era

    Bento, King & Rohani. nearing submission (available upon request)

    Won't you be my neighbor?

    Bento et al. in prep (available upon request)

    Warming and vegetation community dynamics in a wild red deer population

    Bento et al. nearing submission (available upon request)

    Spring temperature and rain mediate summer growth in the Park Grass experiment

    Bento et al. nearing submission (available upon request)

    Climatic effects of plant productivity and herbivore performance in St Kilda

    Bento et al. nearing submission (available upon request)

  • Teaching & Mentoring

    I have been fortunate to create and teach a variety of classes and mentor several outstanding undergraduate and MSc. and Ph.D. students.

     

    Three unifying principles guide my teaching and mentoring approach:

    (i) combining foundational principles with practical application

    (ii) guided active learning

    (iii) quantitative reasoning

     

    These are some courses I have designed and or taught:

    Machine learning

    Introduction to machine learning with R - applied to ecological problems (2018 @ Odum School of Ecology)

    Computational Modeling

    Computational Modeling ECOL 8540 - applied to infectious disease systems (May 2018 @ IDEAS, UGA)

    Introduction to modelling

    Introduction to modelling with R - apply population models (2017 @ Odum School of Ecology)

    Mathematical Models

    Introduction to Mathematical Models Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases (2013-2014 @ Infectious Disease Epi. Dept Imperial)

    Generalised Linear Modeling in R

    Statistics and Computing in R for Ecologists (2009-2012 @ Silwood Park Imperial)

  • Check out my latest updates!

    I tweet about disease & evolutionary ecology, diversity in STEM, science & data viz.