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Outbreak! Managing human pandemics

Using new technologies to trace the origins of ancient pandemics, and developing systems to help us with future ones

Virologist Eddie Holmes explains how viral and bacterial pandemics of the type that spawned the Black Death and Ebola remain an unpredictable and inevitable part of our future. Professor Holmes describes how new technologies like genomic sequencing help us explore the origins and evolution of pathogens linked to pandemics as far back as Ancient Rome, and how evolving biosecurity and surveillance systems offer us a chance containing outbreaks.

Presented by Dr Andi Horvath.

Full transcript and more information available here.


Eddie Holmes is an NHMRC Australia Fellow and Professor at the University of Sydney. Prior to joining the University of Sydney, he was the Verne M. Willaman Chair in the Life Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, USA. Eddie received his undergraduate degree from the University of London (1986) and his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge (1990). Between 1993-2004 he held various positions at the University of Oxford, including University Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology and Fellow of New College. His research focuses on the emergence, evolution and spread of infectious disease. In 2003 he was awarded the Scientific Medal for ‘Achievement in Research by a Zoologist Under the Age of 40’ by the Zoological Society of London (UK) for his work on evolutionary biology and bioinformatics. In 2008 he became a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA) in 2015.

Professor Holmes has spent the past 25 years using molecular genetic techniques to understand the determinants of cross-species pathogen transmission and emergence. His work has helped define the barriers faced by viruses as they emerge in new hosts, determine the range of transmission patterns exhibited by emerging viruses, and establish genetic models for host switching. A key question is how often are new viruses created by jumping to new host species (which is central to the process of viral emergence), compared to their genesis within single hosts.

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