UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


Ava Sullivan

Characterising risky human-animal interfaces to prevent zoonotic disease spillover events

Supervisors: Dr. Patty Kostkova (first), Dr. Jon Epstein (second/external)
Funder: EcoHealth Alliance
Email: ava.sullivan.21@ucl.ac.uk

Human exposure to zoonotic viruses within host animal species is a key pathway towards viral spillover. Contact between humans and animals is required for viral spillover to occur. The focus of my research is to take a closer look at what interfaces between humans and animals are risky in terms of zoonotic disease spillover. Identifying, characterizing, and addressing high-risk behaviors at the human-animal interface provides key opportunities for risk mitigation, pre-event surveillance, interventions, and community education before spillover occurs. If we can address these interfaces before spillover, we can prevent pandemics before large-scale morbidity and mortality occurs in human populations.

My research will be conducted in communities in rural India living near bat species known to be natural reservoirs for henipaviruses and filoviruses. I aim to test the hypothesis that communities that rear livestock and where wildlife hosts are present may be at higher risk for emerging infectious diseases, and that there are inherent risky and protective behaviors ongoing in these communities which are relevant to disease emergence. The proposal is rooted in a ‘One Health Approach,’ in that it functions across human, animal and environmental health challenges to gain a deeper understanding of the drivers of infectious disease and planetary health.