Imperial College London

Dr Zulma M Cucunubá

Faculty of MedicineSchool of Public Health

MRC/Rutherford Fund Research Fellow







G27Medical SchoolSt Mary's Campus






My research focuses on statistic and mathematical methods to understand the distribution, risk factors and determinants of infectious tropical diseases and the impact of control interventions. I have mainly worked on vector bone diseases including Chagas disease, Zika and Malaria. After finishing my PhD on Infectious Disease Epidemiology I was postdoc with the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium (VIMC). I'm currently a MRC Research Fellow looking at the global disease burden of Chikungunya virus, among other topics.



 The Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium (VIMC) is a large project lead by Dr Tini Garske and supported by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project includes over a dozen independent modelling groups in several institutions and countries. I am part of the Core Scientific Team that looks at modelling comparison, aggregation and quality standards for modelling the impact of vaccination programmes in low and middle-income countries, for a wide range of vaccine preventable diseases that includes:  Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Japanese encephalitis (JE), Meningitis A, Measles, Pneumococcal disease, Rotavirus, Rubella and Yellow Fever.





Since 2016 I’m part of a team at Imperial College that modelled the Zika epidemic in Latin-America under the leadership of Prof Neil Ferguson. As part of this collaboration I also participate in the design of sero-prevalence surveys for Zika and other Flavivirus to test the model predictions in Colombia.


Chagas disease

 After finishing my medical degree in Colombia, I worked for the Colombia’s National Institute of Health for five years. There, I conducted various research projects on Chagas disease and Malaria. Between 2011-2013, I designed and then coordinated the National Programme for Chagas Disease Research (RED CHAGAS), a consortium supported by COLCIENCIAS, and that included several national and international institutions.

 During my PhD at Imperial College, I looked at Modelling the Epidemiology and Health Care Burden of Chagas disease in Colombia, under the supervision of Prof Maria-Gloria Basañez, Dr Pierre Nouvellet and Dr Lesong Conteh. As part of my PhD I adapted and tested various catalytic models, using routine seroprevalence data, for understanding the historical changes of the Force-of-Infection of Chagas disease. I also re-estimated parameters of progression and mortality of Chagas disease by using meta-analyses techniques. Based on these previous results, we built a burden of disease model that considers the similarities and outcomes that Chagas disease shares with other cardiovascular diseases, allowing us to estimate the differential and shared morbidity and mortality between them. On the other side, as part of my PhD I also estimated coverage and access to health care of Chagas disease and measured the medical care costs to the health system in Colombia.

 As an extension of my PhD, I keep an active role in the Chagas Impact Project. This is a collaboration between Imperial College, the NTDs-Modelling Consortium, Princeton University and the Pan-American Health Organization. In this project, we are modelling the Force-of-Infection and measuring the impact on disease burden of Chagas disease across Latin American countries, as well as testing different modelling approaches to measure progress towards the achievement of WHO 2020 Goals for Chagas disease.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Routledge I, Chevéz JER, Cucunubá ZM, et al., 2018, Estimating spatiotemporally varying malaria reproduction numbers in a near elimination setting., Nat Commun, Vol:9

Cucunuba ZM, Nouvellet P, Peterson JK, et al., 2018, Complementary Paths to Chagas Disease Elimination: The Impact of Combining Vector Control With Etiological Treatment, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol:66, ISSN:1058-4838, Pages:S293-S300

Cucunuba ZM, Manne-Goehler JM, Diaz D, et al., 2017, How universal is coverage and access to diagnosis and treatment for Chagas disease in Colombia? A health systems analysis, Social Science & Medicine, Vol:175, ISSN:0277-9536, Pages:187-198

Cucunubá ZM, Nouvellet P, Conteh L, et al., 2017, Modelling historical changes in the force-of-infection of Chagas disease to inform control and elimination programmes: application in Colombia., Bmj Glob Health, Vol:2, ISSN:2059-7908

Ferguson NM, Cucunuba ZM, Dorigatti I, et al., 2016, Countering the Zika epidemic in Latin America, Science, Vol:353, ISSN:0036-8075, Pages:353-354

Cucunuba ZM, Okuwoga O, Basanez M-G, et al., 2016, Increased mortality attributed to Chagas disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Parasites & Vectors, Vol:9, ISSN:1756-3305

Nouvellet P, Cucunuba ZM, Gourbiere S, 2015, Ecology, Evolution and Control of Chagas Disease: A Century of Neglected Modelling and a Promising Future, Advances in Parasitology, Vol:87, ISSN:0065-308X, Pages:135-191

Cucunubá ZM, Flórez AC, Cárdenas A, et al., 2012, Prevalence and risk factors for Chagas disease in pregnant women in Casanare, Colombia., Am J Trop Med Hyg, Vol:87, Pages:837-842

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