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Dr Joanne Lello

Dr Joanne Lello

Senior Lecturer

School of Biosciences

Email
lelloj@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 5885
Fax:
+44 (0)29 2087 4116
Campuses
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

My research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious disease, particularly, what happens when individual hosts or host populations are infected by more than one parasite at a time (coinfection). I am also interesetd in how fundamental ecology may help support medical research and practice.  To explore these questions, I use a combination of field and lab based studies coupled with mathematical modelling techniques.

Roles

Module Leader: BI3157 Systems Biology.

Module Leader: BIT04 MSc Global Ecology and Conservation Project Module

Deputy Module Lead BI3001 Final Year Project Module.

Assessment Co-ordinator: BI2135 Ecology

Interested in joining my lab as a self-funded post-graduate student or a postdoc/fellow? Please contact me by email.

Biography

I started out as a junior medical laboratory scientist in microbiology at Liverpool PHLS, but returned to education undertaking an Applied Biology degree at Liverpool John Moores University. Following my degree I spent several years studying squirrel behaviour and disease before taking up a PhD in December 1999 at Stirling University under the guidance of Prof. Peter Hudson and Prof Daniel Tompkins. It was there that my interest in coinfection began while studying the "Community Ecology of Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) Parasites". After completion of the PhD in May 2006 I moved to Armidale (NSW, Australia), to take up a position as a Research Scientist in CSIRO Livestock Industries extending my coinfection research to examine the immune mechanisms mediating parasite interspecific interactions in sheep. Finally after three years down-under I returned to the UK and gained my position as a Lecturer here in Cardiff, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2014.

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA)

Academic positions

  • CSIRO, Australia - Livestock Industries - Research Scientist August 2003 to September 2006.

Committees and reviewing

  • Editorial Board Member, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B
  • NSF Grant Panel Member, 2021
  • European Science Foundation Expert Panel Member 

Publications

2021

2019

2018

2017

2013

2012

2010

2009

2008

2006

2005

2004

2003

2001

Teaching

  • Module Leader: Systems Biology. Final year module. My focus in this module is on helping students gain confidence in modelling and understanding the basic concepts underlying the course. I am keen to help biologists realise that they don't have to be 'really good at maths' to use and understand models. I also want to help students realise how useful and exciting models can be in helping them to understand systems and how simple models can describe dynamics across very different systems. 
  • Module Leader: Global Ecology and Conservation Project Module. Masters Level module. In this role I support students in identifying appropriate projects and/or approaching appropriate members of staff for their interests. I also co-ordinate the timelines and assessments for the module, and support the students in report production and presentation skills.
  • Deputy Module Lead: Final Year Project Module. Here I support Module Leader Dr Mark Young in administration of the project module and help support students in understanding and presenting their data analyses.
  • Assessment Co-ordinator:  Ecology. Second year module. My role is to explore with the students several of the classical theoretical models in ecolgy, familiarising them with their structure and meaning and exploring what they tell us about the fundamentals of population growth, competitive interactions, predator-prey dynamics and host-parasite interactions. I also introduce them to my own research field of coinfection biology. Additionally as assessment co-ordinator ensure that the students understand and are supported through the coursework elements of the module.

How important is coinfection to human health?

We are all assaulted simultaneously by a plethora of different infectious organisms. This is especially true for people living in the developing world, where endemic infections are common and multiple infections are the norm. In recent work (http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2813) we demonstrated that infection with one species could alter the risk of being infected with another species. We continue to explore this question considering how coinfection may influence disease severity and infection and transmission processes using field studies combined with statistical methodologies. Within this context we are currently exploring coinfection between malaria and schistosomes, and TB and a range of other pathogens.

Can we predict the consequences of coinfection?

In classical ecology we can define organisms in a particular environment by their effect upon and response to that environment – the functional group. Organisms can often be assigned to functional groups based on simple characteristics. Potential interactions between species can then be inferred by understanding how the functional groups interact rather than having direct knowledge of the two species. If we can use this idea to group parasites we can potentially predict how any two parasite species might interact (http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182008000383). In past work with CSIRO, Australia,  my colleagues and I demonstrated that such a functional group approach could predict the outcome of a coifnection, providing a proof of principle by showing that the blood feeding helminth Haemonchus contortus suppresses host immune response against a second helminth species Trichostrongylus columbriformis, in sheep as predicted from a rabbit system with similarly characterised parasites (http://dx.doi.org/110.1098/rspb.2017.2610). With colloborators at the University of Barcelona (Dr Emmanuel Serrano Ferron and Dr Pere-Joan Cardona) we are developing this work in a mouse TB model in combination with a range of other pathogens.

A One Health Approach to Enteric Infection Control

Enteric infections cause diarrhoea, one of the top three causes of infant mortality, and are a major contributor to stunting and other morbidities. The burden of these infections is most heavy felt in rural Low to Middle Income Countries (LMIC). To tackle this problem, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) strategies have long been a major of focus of organisation like WHO and UNICEF and of many LMIC governments. Unfortunately recent large scale randomised control trials (e.g. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30374-7) have demonstrated little or no effect of standard WaSH implementation strategies in rural LMIC. We propose that current WaSH, which focuses on prevention of human faecal contamination of food, water and the environment, is insufficient because it does too little to consider the wider ecological context of transmission in these settings. In particular, the importance of peri-domestic animals and their potential to act as resevoir of such infections is largely overlooked (https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(19)30129-9). Our team, made up of UK and Zimbabwe based researchers is seeking to determine the key sources and routes of transmission of enteric pathogens, particularly focusing on very young children in rural Zimbabwe.

Coinfection in Metapopulations

Natural host populations are often fragmented, consisting of several small populations that are linked to one another by animal movement. We aim to uderstand how changes in population network topology (e.g. size and degree of connectivity between populations) affects disease transmission. With our US collaborators we combine data collected from wild desert bighorn sheep (DBH) with new theoretical approaches (e.g. network models) to investigate how infection risks change in populations with different levels of fragmentation. We are also exploring the interplay the role of infection and network topology on immune defense profiles and, in turn, how this influences emerging disease susceptibility in populations.  

Research Grants

  • 2019-2024 BBSRC / NSF (YY-EEID US-UK XXXX:) "Eco-Evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases in host population networks."
  • 2019 HEFCW GCRF “Why does diarrhoeal disease persist despite Water Santiation and Hygiene (WaSH) intervention?”
  • 2018-2019 Cardiff University's Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) [204824/Z/16/Z]"Untangling intestinal schistosomiasis and malaria interactions using a longitudinal cohort study of mothers and pre-school children in Uganda."
  • 2015-2016 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Fellowship (H2020-MSCA-IF-2014; grant no. 661690) “PARACORT:  The role of macroPARAsite COinfection in Rodent-borne microparasite Transmission” at the Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy.
  • 2007-2011: Natural Environmental Research Council studentship (NERC; NE/G523420)
    Endemic infection in the German cockroach, Blattella germanica. – Joanna Randall
  • 2007-2008: Cardiff University Seed Corn Funding
    Co-infection dynamics in a free-running system using the cockroach host (Blattella germanica).
  • 2004-2007: CSIRO Livestock Industries, Australia
    Complex systems science approaches to sheep gut helminth interactions.

Recent Key Publications

Key External Collaborations

Supervision

I currently supervise two first year PhD students Sarah Rollason, (MRC GW4+ studentship "Understanding the role of coinfection in disease and infection control") and Daniel McDowell, (NERC FRESH CDT  studentship "One man’s meat is another man’s poison: exploring the effect of mass drug administration against schistosomes on the aquatic food web").

I also co-supervise final year PhD student Ryan Imrie - “Evolution and ecology of virus host shifts” - based at the University of Exeter, with Primary Supervisor Dr Ben Longdon. https://biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/staff/profile/index.php?web_id=Ryan_Imrie.

I will consider self-funded students in all areas of my research - which can be viewed under the research tab.

Past projects

  • Dr Joanna Randall - Endemic infection in the German cockroach, Blattella germanica. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joanna-Randall
  • Dr Oluwaseun Somoye - The role of endemic infection in disease emergence. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Oluwaseun-Somoye-2

Engagement

Memberships and Activies

  • Member of the editorial board for Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Soceity Series B.
  • Grant panel member and reviewer for the National Science Foundation, USA.
  • Member of the European Science Foundation's Panel of Expert Reviewers.
  • External examiner for the Animal Biology, Biology, Conservation Biology and Management Ecology degree schemes at Stirling University.
  • Member of the British Ecological Society and former founding member and Chair of the BES Special Interest Group "Parasite and Pathogen Ecology and Evolution."
  • Member of the British Society for Parasitology.