After gaining a double First class B.Sc. hons, my D.Phil at the University of Oxford examined the epidemiology of zoonotic disease within the UK. My doctoral research also developed a novel line of research focusing on the impact of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii on host behaviour and its association with chronic disease. After just over a year working as a Clinical Scientist (in the HIV/STI division) at the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC) in London, I returned to Oxford University as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, EPA Cephalosporin Junior Research Fellow (JRF), Lecturer in Infectious Diseases and subsequently as a Royal Society University Research Fellow (URF: 2000-2010). During this period I expanded the scope of my work to encompass global health and tropical field research and disease control across much of Africa and Asia.
I accepted a Readership at Imperial College London's Faculty of Medicine in 2003 and was promoted to a personal tenured Chair in Parasitic Disease Epidemiology in 2006. The key motivation for this move was the unique opportunity to be co-Director of the then newly formed Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), a programme initially facilitated through major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In this role I have been responsible from the outset for the design, implementation and evaluation of large-scale sustainable parasitic disease control programmes across sub-Saharan Africa (initially schistosomiasis and soil transmitted helminthiasis, but subsequently also lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis and trachoma). These activities have attracted approximately $155 million in funding and provided well over 273 million chemotherapeutic treatments (representing over 90% of all treatments across sub-Saharan Africa) for children and at-risk adults to date (2003-2013). My research during this period has naturally been biased towards operational research to aid implementation, where close working relationships with partner organizations and scientists in the endemic countries has been essential. Throughout, however, I have continued to make significant contributions to answering the epidemiological and evolutionary questions associated with such mass drug administration, in particular in monitoring and evaluating the impact on host morbidity and parasite population transmission dynamics and genetic structure.
I have produced over 135 Peer Reviewed Publications in international journals across a broad range of empirical research topics such as that of the coevolution between host resistance and parasite infectivity/virulence (e.g. Nature Genetics, 2002; Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, B, 1999), the impact of parasites on host behaviour (e.g. JEB 2013; Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, B,, 2006; 2000), in combination and complementary to those focusing on more global health aspects (e.g. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 2013; The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2007; Current Opinion Infectious Diseases, 2006).
My research continues to attract significant national and international Media and Public Understanding of Science Interest, particularly relating to the potential role of parasites and pathogens in behavioural alterations of both animals and humans
I am actively involved in both undergraduate and graduate teaching and am happy to hear from potential reseach students. I have successfully supervised 15 undergraduate research projects, 13 of which were awarded 1sts for their projects. I have successfully supervised 16 (+ 2 current) D.Phil/Ph.D students, all of whom have gone on to successful careers in research and/or public health, and 8 M.Sc/M.A/MPH students, six of which were awarded distinctions. My graduate and undergraduate students have consistently won awards and prizes for their dissertaions and conference presentations under my supervision.
Leger E, Webster JP, 2017, Hybridizations within the Genus Schistosoma: implications for evolution, epidemiology and control., Parasitology, Vol:144, Pages:65-80
et al., 2016, Whole genome resequencing of the human parasite Schistosoma mansoni reveals population history and effects of selection, Scientific Reports, Vol:6, ISSN:2045-2322
et al., 2016, Reduced Efficacy of Praziquantel Against Schistosoma mansoni Is Associated With Multiple Rounds of Mass Drug Administration, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol:63, ISSN:1058-4838, Pages:1151-1159
et al., 2016, Development and evaluation of a Markov model to predict changes in schistosomiasis prevalence in response to praziquantel treatment: a case study of Schistosoma mansoni in Uganda and Mali, Parasites & Vectors, Vol:9, ISSN:1756-3305
et al., 2016, Multi-parallel qPCR provides increased sensitivity and diagnostic breadth for gastrointestinal parasites of humans: field-based inferences on the impact of mass deworming, Parasites & Vectors, Vol:9, ISSN:1756-3305