Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineSchool of Public Health

Honorary Senior Lecturer



+44 (0)20 7594 3229m.walker06 CV




G2716 South Wharf RoadSt Mary's Campus





Publication Type

113 results found

Milne GC, Webster JP, Walker M, 2022, Is the incidence of congenital toxoplasmosis declining?, Trends Parasitol

Prenatal infection with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii can cause congenital toxoplasmosis (CT), an often fatal or lifelong-disabling condition. Several studies of human populations have reported temporal decreases in seroprevalence, suggesting declining CT incidence. However, the consistency of this trend among diverse populations remains unclear, as does its implication for prenatal screening programmes, the major intervention against CT. Using temporally resolved data on the seroprevalence of T. gondii in various countries, we discuss how the parasite's changing epidemiology may affect trends in CT incidence in varying and counterintuitive ways. We argue that parasite stage-specific serology could be helpful for understanding underlying causes of secular changes in seroprevalence. Furthermore, we highlight the importance of updating cost-effectiveness estimates of screening programmes, accounting for neuropsychiatric sequelae.

Journal article

Whittaker C, Chesnais CB, Pion SDS, Kamgno J, Walker M, Basáñez M-G, Boussinesq Met al., 2022, Factors associated with variation in single-dose albendazole pharmacokinetics: A systematic review and modelling analysis., PLoS Negl Trop Dis, Vol: 16

BACKGROUND: Albendazole is an orally administered anti-parasitic medication with widespread usage in a variety of both programmatic and clinical contexts. Previous work has shown that the drug's pharmacologically active metabolite, albendazole sulfoxide, is characterised by substantial inter-individual pharmacokinetic variation. This variation might have implications for the efficacy of albendazole treatment, but current understanding of the factors associated with this variation remains incomplete. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We carried out a systematic review to identify references containing temporally disaggregated data on the plasma concentration of albendazole and/or (its pharmacologically-active metabolite) albendazole sulfoxide following a single oral dose. These data were then integrated into a mathematical modelling framework to infer albendazole sulfoxide pharmacokinetic parameters and relate them to characteristics of the groups being treated. These characteristics included age, weight, sex, dosage, infection status, and whether patients had received a fatty meal prior to treatment or other drugs alongside albendazole. Our results highlight a number of factors systematically associated with albendazole sulfoxide pharmacokinetic variation including age, existing parasitic infection and receipt of a fatty meal. Age was significantly associated with variation in albendazole sulfoxide systemic availability and peak plasma concentration achieved; as well as the clearance rate (related to the half-life) after adjusting for variation in dosage due to differences in body weight between children and adults. Receipt of a fatty meal prior to treatment was associated with increased albendazole sulfoxide systemic availability (and by extension, peak plasma concentration and total albendazole sulfoxide exposure following the dose). Parasitic infection (particularly echinococcosis) was associated with altered pharmacokinetic parameters, with infected populations di

Journal article

Pennance T, Neves MI, Webster BL, Gower CM, Knopp S, Khamis IS, Ame SM, Ali SM, Rabone M, Emery A, Allan F, Muhsin MA, Suleiman KR, Kabole F, Walker M, Rollinson D, Webster JPet al., 2022, Potential drivers for schistosomiasis persistence: Population genetic analyses from a cluster-randomized urogenital schistosomiasis elimination trial across the Zanzibar islands., PLoS Negl Trop Dis, Vol: 16

The World Health Organization's revised NTD Roadmap and the newly launched Guidelines target elimination of schistosomiasis as a public health problem in all endemic areas by 2030. Key to meeting this goal is elucidating how selective pressures imposed by interventions shape parasite populations. Our aim was to identify any differential impact of a unique cluster-randomized tri-armed elimination intervention (biannual mass drug administration (MDA) applied alone or in association with either mollusciciding (snail control) or behavioural change interventions) across two Zanzibarian islands (Pemba and Unguja) on the population genetic composition of Schistosoma haematobium over space and time. Fifteen microsatellite loci were used to analyse individual miracidia collected from infected individuals across islands and intervention arms at the start (2012 baseline: 1,522 miracidia from 176 children; 303 from 43 adults; age-range 6-75, mean 12.7 years) and at year 5 (2016: 1,486 miracidia from 146 children; 214 from 25 adults; age-range 9-46, mean 12.4 years). Measures of genetic diversity included allelic richness (Ar), Expected (He) and Observed heterozygosity (Ho), inbreeding coefficient (FST), parentage analysis, estimated worm burden, worm fecundity, and genetic sub-structuring. There was little evidence of differential selective pressures on population genetic diversity, inbreeding or estimated worm burdens by treatment arm, with only the MDA+snail control arm within Unguja showing trends towards reduced diversity and altered inbreeding over time. The greatest differences overall, both in terms of parasite fecundity and genetic sub-structuring, were observed between the islands, consistent with Pemba's persistently higher mean infection intensities compared to neighbouring Unguja, and within islands in terms of infection hotspots (across three definitions). These findings highlight the important contribution of population genetic analyses to elucidate extensive gene

Journal article

Dixon-Zegeye M, Winskill P, Harrison W, Whittaker C, Schmidt V, Flórez Sánchez A, Cucunubá Perez ZM, Edia-Asuke A, Walker M, Basanez M-Get al., 2022, Global force-of-infection trends for human taenia solium taeniasis/cysticercosis, eLife, Vol: 11, ISSN: 2050-084X

Infection by Taenia solium poses a major burden across endemic countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) 2021–2030 Neglected Tropical Diseases roadmap has proposed that 30% of endemic countries achieve intensified T. solium control in hyperendemic areas by 2030. Understanding geographical variation in age-prevalence profiles and force-of-infection (FoI) estimates will inform intervention designs across settings. Human taeniasis (HTT) and human cysticercosis (HCC) age-prevalence data from 16 studies in Latin America, Africa and Asia were extracted through a systematic review. Catalytic models, incorporating diagnostic performance uncertainty, were fitted to the data using Bayesian methods, to estimate rates of antibody (Ab)-seroconversion, infection acquisition and Ab-seroreversion or infection loss. HCC FoI and Ab-seroreversion rates were also estimated across 23 departments in Colombia from 28,100 individuals. Across settings, there was extensive variation in all-ages seroprevalence. Evidence for Ab seroreversion or infection loss was found in most settings for both HTT and HCC and for HCC Ab seroreversion in Colombia. The average duration until humans became Ab-seropositive/infected decreased as all-age (sero)prevalence increased. There was no clear relationship between the average duration humans remain Ab-seropositive and all-age seroprevalence. Marked geographical heterogeneity in T. solium transmission rates indicate the need for setting43 specific intervention strategies to achieve the WHO goals.

Journal article

Willen L, Milton P, Hamley JID, Walker M, Osei-Atweneboana MY, Volf P, Basáñez M-G, Courtenay Oet al., 2022, Demographic patterns of human antibody levels to Simulium damnosum s.l. saliva in onchocerciasis-endemic areas: An indicator of exposure to vector bites, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Vol: 16, ISSN: 1935-2727

BACKGROUND: In onchocerciasis endemic areas in Africa, heterogenous biting rates by blackfly vectors on humans are assumed to partially explain age- and sex-dependent infection patterns with Onchocerca volvulus. To underpin these assumptions and further improve predictions made by onchocerciasis transmission models, demographic patterns in antibody responses to salivary antigens of Simulium damnosum s.l. are evaluated as a measure of blackfly exposure. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Recently developed IgG and IgM anti-saliva immunoassays for S. damnosum s.l. were applied to blood samples collected from residents in four onchocerciasis endemic villages in Ghana. Demographic patterns in antibody levels according to village, sex and age were explored by fitting generalized linear models. Antibody levels varied between villages but showed consistent patterns with age and sex. Both IgG and IgM responses declined with increasing age. IgG responses were generally lower in males than in females and exhibited a steeper decline in adult males than in adult females. No sex-specific difference was observed in IgM responses. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The decline in age-specific antibody patterns suggested development of immunotolerance or desensitization to blackfly saliva antigen in response to persistent exposure. The variation between sexes, and between adults and youngsters may reflect differences in behaviour influencing cumulative exposure. These measures of antibody acquisition and decay could be incorporated into onchocerciasis transmission models towards informing onchocerciasis control, elimination, and surveillance.

Journal article

Walker M, Freitas LT, Halder JB, Brack M, Keiser J, King CH, Levecke B, Ai-Lian Lim Y, Pieri O, Sow D, Stothard JR, Webster JP, Zhou X-N, Terry RF, Guérin PJ, Basáñez M-Get al., 2022, Improving anthelmintic treatment for schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases through sharing and reuse of individual participant data., Wellcome Open Res, Vol: 7, ISSN: 2398-502X

The Infectious Diseases Data Observatory (IDDO, has launched a clinical data platform for the collation, curation, standardisation and reuse of individual participant data (IPD) on treatments for two of the most globally important neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), schistosomiasis (SCH) and soil-transmitted helminthiases (STHs). This initiative aims to harness the power of data-sharing by facilitating collaborative joint analyses of pooled datasets to generate robust evidence on the efficacy and safety of anthelminthic treatment regimens. A crucial component of this endeavour has been the development of a Research Agenda to promote engagement with the SCH and STH research and disease control communities by highlighting key questions that could be tackled using data shared through the IDDO platform. Here, we give a contextual overview of the priority research themes articulated in the Research Agenda-a 'living' document hosted on the IDDO website-and describe the three-stage consultation process behind its development. We also discuss the sustainability and future directions of the platform, emphasising throughout the power and promise of ethical and equitable sharing and reuse of clinical data to support the elimination of NTDs.

Journal article

Díaz AV, Walker M, Webster JP, 2021, Surveillance and control of SARS-CoV-2 in mustelids: An evolutionary perspective., Evolutionary Applications: evolutionary approaches to environmental, biomedical and socio-economic issues, Vol: 14, Pages: 2715-2725, ISSN: 1752-4563

The relevance of mustelids in SARS-CoV-2 transmission has become increasingly evident. Alongside experimental demonstration of airborne transmission among ferrets, the major animal model for human respiratory diseases, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within- and/or between-commercial mink farms has occurred and continues to occur. The number of mink reared for the luxury fur trade is approximately 60.5 million, across 36 mustelid-farming countries. By July 2021, SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks have been reported in 12 of these countries, at 412 European and 20 North American mink farms. Reverse zoonotic transmission events (from humans to mink) have introduced the virus to farms with subsequent extensive mink-to-mink transmission as well as further zoonotic (mink-to-human) transmission events generating cases among both farm workers and the broader community. Overcrowded housing conditions inherent within intensive mink farms, often combined with poor sanitation and welfare, both guarantee spread of SARS-CoV-2 and facilitate opportunities for viral variants, thereby effectively representing biotic hubs for viral transmission and evolution of virulence. Adequate preventative, surveillance and control measures within the mink industry are imperative both for the control of the current global pandemic and to mitigate against future outbreaks.

Journal article

Galipó E, Dixon-Zegeye M, Fronterrè C, Cucunubá Z, Basáñez M-G, Stevens K, Flórez Sánchez AC, Walker Met al., 2021, Spatial distribution and risk factors for human cysticercosis in Colombia, Parasites and Vectors, Vol: 14, Pages: 1-15, ISSN: 1756-3305

BackgroundCysticercosis is a zoonotic neglected tropical disease (NTD) that affects humans and pigs following the ingestion of Taenia solium eggs. Human cysticercosis poses a substantial public health burden in endemic countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to target high-endemicity settings with enhanced interventions in 17 countries by 2030. Between 2008 and 2010, Colombia undertook a national baseline serosurvey of unprecedented scale, which led to an estimated seroprevalence of T. solium cysticercus antibodies among the general population of 8.6%. Here, we use contemporary geostatistical approaches to analyse this unique dataset with the aim of understanding the spatial distribution and risk factors associated with human cysticercosis in Colombia to inform how best to target intervention strategies.MethodsWe used a geostatistical model to estimate individual and household risk factors associated with seropositivity to T. solium cysticercus antibodies from 29,253 people from 133 municipalities in Colombia. We used both independent and spatially structured random effects at neighbourhood/village and municipality levels to account for potential clustering of exposure to T. solium. We present estimates of the distribution and residual correlation of seropositivity at the municipality level.ResultsHigh seroprevalence was identified in municipalities located in the north and south of Colombia, with spatial correlation in seropositivity estimated up to approximately 140 km. Statistically significant risk factors associated with seropositivity to T. solium cysticercus were related to age, sex, educational level, socioeconomic status, use of rainwater, consumption of partially cooked/raw pork meat and possession of dogs.ConclusionsIn Colombia, the distribution of human cysticercosis is influenced by socioeconomic considerations, education and environmental factors related to the spread of T. solium eggs. This information can be used to tailor national interv

Journal article

Walker M, Cools P, Albonico M, Ame SM, Ayana M, Dana D, Keiser J, Matoso LF, Montresor A, Mekonnen Z, Correa-Oliveira R, Pinto SA, Sayasone S, Vercruysse J, Vlaminck J, Levecke Bet al., 2021, Individual responses to a single oral dose of albendazole indicate reduced efficacy against soil-transmitted helminths in an area with high drug pressure, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Vol: 15, Pages: 1-16, ISSN: 1935-2727

BackgroundAlbendazole (ALB) is administered annually to millions of children through global deworming programs targeting soil-transmitted helminths (STHs: Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura and hookworms, Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale). However, due to the lack of large individual patient datasets collected using standardized protocols and the application of population-based statistical methods, little is known about factors that may affect individual responses to treatment.Methodology/Principal findingsWe re-analyzed 645 individual patient data from three standardized clinical trials designed to assess the efficacy of a single 400 mg oral dose of ALB against STHs in schoolchildren from different study sites, each with varying history of drug pressure based on duration of mass drug administration programs: Ethiopia, low; Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), moderate; Pemba Island (Tanzania), high. Using a Bayesian statistical modelling approach to estimate individual responses (individual egg reduction rates, ERRi), we found that efficacy was lower in Pemba Island, particularly for T. trichiura. For this STH, the proportion of participants with a satisfactory response (ERRi ≥50%), was 65% in Ethiopia, 61% in Lao PDR but only 29% in Pemba Island. There was a significant correlation between ERRi and infection intensity prior to drug administration (ERRi decreasing as a function of increasing infection intensity). Individual age and sex also affected the drug response, but these were of negligible clinical significance and not consistent across STHs and study sites.Conclusions/SignificanceWe found decreased efficacy of ALB against all the STHs analyzed in Pemba Island (Tanzania), an area with high drug pressure. This does not indicate causality, as this association may also be partially explained by differences in infection intensity prior to drug administration. Notwithstanding, our results indicate that without alternative treatment

Journal article

Jewell PD, Abraham A, Schmidt V, Buell KG, Bustos JA, Garcia HH, Dixon MA, Walker M, Ngowi BJ, Basáñez M-G, Winkler ASet al., 2021, Neurocysticercosis and HIV/AIDS co-infection: a scoping review, Tropical Medicine and International Health, Vol: 26, Pages: 1140-1152, ISSN: 1360-2276

OBJECTIVES: Neurocysticercosis (NCC) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have high disease burden and are prevalent in overlapping low- and middle-income areas. Yet, treatment guidance for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH/A) co-infected with NCC is currently lacking. This study aims to scope the available literature on HIV/AIDS and NCC co-infection, focusing on epidemiology, clinical characteristics, diagnostics, and treatment outcomes. METHODS: The scoping literature review methodological framework, and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed. A total of 16,969 records identified through database searching and 45 additional records from other sources were reduced to 52 included studies after a standardised selection process. RESULTS: Two experimental studies, ten observational studies, 23 case series/case reports and 17 reviews or letters were identified. Observational studies demonstrated similar NCC seroprevalence in PLWH/A and their HIV-negative counterparts. Of 29 PLWH/A and NCC co-infection, 17 (59%) suffered from epileptic seizures, 15 (52%) from headaches, and 15 (52%) had focal neurological deficits. Eighteen (62%) had viable vesicular cysts and six (21%) had calcified cysts. Fifteen (52%) were treated with albendazole, of which 11 (73%) responded well to treatment. Five individuals potentially demonstrated an immune-reconstitution inflammatory syndrome after commencing anti-retroviral therapy, although this was in the absence of immunological and neuroimaging confirmation. CONCLUSIONS: There is a paucity of evidence to guide treatment of PLWH/A and NCC co-infection. There is a pressing need for high-quality studies in this patient group to appropriately inform diagnostic and management guidelines for HIV-positive patients with NCC.

Journal article

Walker M, Hamley J, Milton P, Kinrade S, Monnot F, Specht S, Pedrique B, Basanez M-Get al., 2021, Supporting drug development for neglected tropical diseases using mathematical modelling, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol: 73, Pages: e1391-e1396, ISSN: 1058-4838

Drug-based interventions are at the heart of global efforts to reach elimination as a public health problem (trachoma, soil-transmitted helminthiases, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis) or elimination of transmission (onchocerciasis) for five of the most prevalent neglected tropical diseases tackled via the World Health Organization preventive chemotherapy strategy. While for some of these diseases there is optimism that currently available drugs will be sufficient to achieve the proposed elimination goals, for others—particularly onchocerciasis—there is a growing consensus that novel therapeutic options will be needed. Since in this area no high return of investment is possible, minimizing wasted money and resources is essential. Here, we use illustrative results to show how mathematical modelling can guide the drug development pathway, yielding resource-saving and efficiency payoffs, from the refinement of target product profiles and intended context of use, to the design of clinical trials.

Journal article

Fall CB, Lambert S, Leger E, Yasenev L, Garba AD, Diop SD, Borlase A, Catalano S, Faye B, Walker M, Sene M, Webster JPet al., 2021, Hybridized zoonotic schistosoma infections result in hybridized morbidity profiles: a clinical morbidity study amongst co-infected human populations of Senegal, Microorganisms, Vol: 9, Pages: 1-18, ISSN: 2076-2607

Hybridization of infectious agents is a major emerging public and veterinary health concern at the interface of evolution, epidemiology, and control. Whilst evidence of the extent of hybridization amongst parasites is increasing, their impact on morbidity remains largely unknown. This may be predicted to be particularly pertinent where parasites of animals with contrasting pathogenicity viably hybridize with human parasites. Recent research has revealed that viable zoonotic hybrids between human urogenital Schistosoma haematobium with intestinal Schistosoma species of livestock, notably Schistosoma bovis, can be highly prevalent across Africa and beyond. Examining human populations in Senegal, we found increased hepatic but decreased urogenital morbidity, and reduced improvement following treatment with praziquantel, in those infected with zoonotic hybrids compared to non-hybrids. Our results have implications for effective monitoring and evaluation of control programmes, and demonstrate for the first time the potential impact of parasite hybridizations on host morbidity.

Journal article

Stolk WA, Blok DJ, Hamley JID, Cantey PT, de Vlas SJ, Walker M, Basáñez M-Get al., 2021, Scaling-down mass ivermectin treatment for onchocerciasis elimination: modelling the impact of the geographical unit for decision making, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol: 72, Pages: S165-S171, ISSN: 1058-4838

BACKGROUND: Due to spatial heterogeneity in onchocerciasis transmission, the duration of ivermectin mass drug administration (MDA) required for eliminating onchocerciasis will vary within endemic areas and the occurrence of transmission 'hotspots' is inevitable. The geographical scale at which stop-MDA decisions are made will be a key driver in how rapidly national programmes can scale down active intervention upon achieving the epidemiological targets for elimination. METHODS: We use two onchocerciasis models (EPIONCHO-IBM and ONCHOSIM) to predict the likelihood of achieving elimination by 2030 in Africa, accounting for variation in pre-intervention endemicity levels and histories of ivermectin treatment. We explore how decision-making at contrasting geographical scales (community vs. larger scale 'project') changes projections on populations still requiring MDA or transitioning to post-treatment surveillance. RESULTS: The total population considered grows from 118 million people in 2020 to 136 million in 2030. If stop-MDA decisions are made at project level, the number of people requiring treatment declines from 69-118 million in 2020 to 59-118 million in 2030. If stop-MDA decisions are made at community level, the numbers decline from 23-81 million in 2020 to 15-63 million in 2030. The lower estimates in these predictions intervals are based on ONCHOSIM, the upper limits on EPIONCHO-IBM. DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS: The geographical scale at which stop-MDA decisions are made strongly determines how rapidly national onchocerciasis programmes can scale down MDA programmes. Stopping in portions of project areas or transmission zones would free up human and economic resources.

Journal article

Dolo H, Coulibaly YI, Sow M, Dembélé M, Doumbia SS, Coulibaly SY, Sangare MB, Dicko I, Diallo AA, Soumaoro L, Coulibaly ME, Diarra D, Colebunders R, Nutman TB, Walker M, Basáñez M-Get al., 2021, Serological evaluation of onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis elimination in the Bakoye and Falémé Foci, Mali, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol: 72, Pages: 1585-1593, ISSN: 1058-4838

BACKGROUND: In Mali, ivermectin-based onchocerciasis elimination from the Bakoye and Falémé foci, reported in 2009-2012, was a beacon leading to policy shifting from morbidity control to elimination of transmission (EOT). These foci are also endemic for lymphatic filariasis (LF). In 2007-2016 mass ivermectin plus albendazole administration was implemented. We report Ov16 (onchocerciasis) and Wb123 (LF) seroprevalence after 24-25 years of treatment to evaluate if onchocerciasis EOT and LF elimination as a public health problem (EPHP) have been achieved. METHODS: The SD Bioline Onchocerciasis/LF IgG4 biplex rapid diagnostic test (RDT) was used in 2,186 children aged 3-10 years in 13 villages (plus two hamlets) in Bakoye, and 2,270 children in 15 villages (plus one hamlet) in Falémé. In Bakoye, all-age serosurveys were conducted in three historically hyperendemic villages, testing 1,867 individuals aged 3-78 years. RESULTS: In Bakoye, IgG4 seropositivity was 0.27% (95%CI=0.13-0.60%) for both Ov16 and Wb123 antigens. In Falémé, Ov16 and Wb123 seroprevalence was, respectively, 0.04% (95%CI=0.01-0.25%) and 0.09% (95%CI=0.02-0.32%). Ov16-seropositive children were from historically meso- and hyperendemic villages. Ov16 positivity was <2% in those ≤14 years, increasing to 16% in those ≥40 years. Wb123 seropositivity was <2% in those ≤39 years, reaching 3% in those ≥40 years. CONCLUSIONS: Notwithstanding uncertainty in the biplex RDT sensitivity, Ov16 and Wb123 seroprevalence among children in Bakoye and Falémé appears consistent with EOT (onchocerciasis) and EPHP (LF) since stopping treatment in 2016. The few Ov16-seropositive children should be skin-snip PCR tested and followed up.

Journal article

Neves MI, Gower CM, Webster JP, Walker Met al., 2021, Revisiting density-dependent fecundity in schistosomes using sibship reconstruction., PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Vol: 15, Pages: 1-16, ISSN: 1935-2727

The stability of parasite populations is regulated by density-dependent processes occurring at different stages of their life cycle. In dioecious helminth infections, density-dependent fecundity is one such regulatory process that describes the reduction in egg production by female worms in high worm burden within-host environments. In human schistosomiasis, the operation of density-dependent fecundity is equivocal and investigation is hampered by the inaccessibility of adult worms that are located intravascularly. Current understanding is almost exclusively limited to data collected from two human autopsy studies conducted over 40 years ago, with subsequent analyses having reached conflicting conclusions. Whether egg production is regulated in a density-dependent manner is key to predicting the effectiveness of interventions targeting the elimination of schistosomiasis and to the interpretation of parasitological data collected during monitoring and evaluation activities. Here, we revisit density-dependent fecundity in the two most globally important human Schistosoma spp. using a statistical modelling approach that combines molecular inference on the number of parents/adult worms in individual human hosts with parasitological egg count data from mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. We find a non-proportional relationship between S. haematobium egg counts and inferred numbers of female worms, providing the first clear evidence of density-dependent fecundity in this schistosome species. We do not find robust evidence for density-dependent fecundity in S. mansoni because of high sensitivity to some modelling assumptions and the lower statistical power of the available data. We discuss the strengths and limitations of our model-based analytical approach and its potential for improving our understanding of density dependence in schistosomiasis and other human helminthiases earmarked for elimination.

Journal article

Toor J, Adams ER, Aliee M, Amoah B, Anderson RM, Ayabina D, Bailey R, Basáñez M-G, Blok DJ, Blumberg S, Borlase A, Rivera RC, Castaño MS, Chitnis N, Coffeng LE, Crump RE, Das A, Davis CN, Davis EL, Deiner MS, Diggle PJ, Fronterre C, Giardina F, Giorgi E, Graham M, Hamley JID, Huang C-I, Kura K, Lietman TM, Lucas TCD, Malizia V, Medley GF, Meeyai A, Michael E, Porco TC, Prada JM, Rock KS, Le Rutte EA, Smith ME, Spencer SEF, Stolk WA, Touloupou P, Vasconcelos A, Vegvari C, de Vlas SJ, Walker M, Hollingsworth TDet al., 2021, Predicted impact of COVID-19 on neglected tropical disease programs and the opportunity for innovation, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol: 72, Pages: 1463-1466, ISSN: 1058-4838

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many key neglected tropical disease (NTD) activities have been postponed. This hindrance comes at a time when the NTDs are progressing towards their ambitious goals for 2030. Mathematical modelling on several NTDs, namely gambiense sleeping sickness, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiases (STH), trachoma, and visceral leishmaniasis, shows that the impact of this disruption will vary across the diseases. Programs face a risk of resurgence, which will be fastest in high-transmission areas. Furthermore, of the mass drug administration diseases, schistosomiasis, STH, and trachoma are likely to encounter faster resurgence. The case-finding diseases (gambiense sleeping sickness and visceral leishmaniasis) are likely to have fewer cases being detected but may face an increasing underlying rate of new infections. However, once programs are able to resume, there are ways to mitigate the impact and accelerate progress towards the 2030 goals.

Journal article

Hamley JID, Blok DJ, Walker M, Milton P, Hopkins AD, Hamill LC, Downs P, de Vlas SJ, Stolk WA, Basáñez M-Get al., 2021, What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for the next decade of onchocerciasis control and elimination?, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Vol: 115, Pages: 269-280, ISSN: 0035-9203

BACKGROUND: Mass drug administration (MDA) of ivermectin for onchocerciasis has been disrupted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Mathematical modelling can help predict how missed/delayed MDA will affect short-term epidemiological trends and elimination prospects by 2030. METHODS: Two onchocerciasis transmission models (EPIONCHO-IBM and ONCHOSIM) are used to simulate microfilarial prevalence trends, elimination probabilities and age profiles of Onchocerca volvulus microfilarial prevalence and intensity for different treatment histories and transmission settings, assuming no interruption, a 1-y (2020) interruption or a 2-y (2020-2021) interruption. Biannual MDA or increased coverage upon MDA resumption are investigated as remedial strategies. RESULTS: Programmes with shorter MDA histories and settings with high pre-intervention endemicity will be the most affected. Biannual MDA is more effective than increasing coverage for mitigating COVID-19's impact on MDA. Programmes that had already switched to biannual MDA should be minimally affected. In high-transmission settings with short treatment history, a 2-y interruption could lead to increased microfilarial load in children (EPIONCHO-IBM) and adults (ONCHOSIM). CONCLUSIONS: Programmes with shorter (annual MDA) treatment histories should be prioritised for remedial biannual MDA. Increases in microfilarial load could have short- and long-term morbidity and mortality repercussions. These results can guide decision-making to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on onchocerciasis elimination.

Journal article

Cheke RA, Little KE, Young S, Walker M, Basanez M-Get al., 2021, Taking the strain out of onchocerciasis? A reanalysis of blindness and transmission data does not support the existence of a savannah blinding strain of onchocerciasis in West Africa, ADVANCES IN PARASITOLOGY, VOL 112, Editors: Rollinson, Stothard, Publisher: ELSEVIER ACADEMIC PRESS INC, Pages: 1-50

Book chapter

Milne G, Webster JP, Walker M, 2020, Toxoplasma gondii: An Underestimated Threat?, TRENDS IN PARASITOLOGY, Vol: 36, Pages: 959-969, ISSN: 1471-4922

Journal article

Dolo H, Coulibaly YI, Sow M, Dembele M, Doumbia SS, Coulibaly SY, Sangare MB, Dicko I, Diallo AA, Soumaoro L, Coulibaly ME, Colebunders R, Nutman TB, Walker M, Basanez M-Get al., 2020, Serological evaluation of onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis elimination in the Bakoye and Faleme foci, Mali, Publisher: ELSEVIER SCI LTD, Pages: 427-428, ISSN: 1201-9712

Conference paper

Milne G, Webster JP, Walker M, 2020, Towards improving interventions against toxoplasmosis by identifying routes of transmission using sporozoite-specific serological tools., Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol: 71, Pages: e686-e693, ISSN: 1058-4838

BACKGROUND: Horizontal transmission of Toxoplasma gondii occurs primarily via ingestion of environmental oocysts or consumption of undercooked/raw meat containing cyst-stage bradyzoites. The relative importance of these two transmission routes remains unclear. Oocyst infection can be distinguished from bradyzoite infection by identification of IgG antibodies against T. gondii-embryogenesis-related protein (TgERP). These antibodies are, however, thought to persist for only 6-8 months in human sera, limiting the use of TgERP serology to only those patients recently exposed to T. gondii. Yet recent serological survey data indicate a more sustained persistence of anti-TgERP antibodies. Elucidating the duration of anti-TgERP IgG will help to determine whether TgERP serology has epidemiological utility for quantifying the relative importance of different routes of T. gondii transmission. METHODS: We developed a sero-catalytic mathematical model to capture the change in seroprevalence of non-stage-specific IgG and anti-TgERP IgG antibodies with human age. The model was fitted to published datasets collected in an endemic region of Brazil to estimate the duration of anti-TgERP IgG antibodies, accounting for variable age-force of infection profiles and uncertainty in the diagnostic performance of TgERP serology. RESULTS: We found that anti-TgERP IgG persists for substantially longer than previously recognised, with estimates ranging from 8.3 to 41.1 years. The Brazilian datasets were consistent with oocysts being the predominant transmission route in these settings. CONCLUSIONS: The longer than previously recognised duration of anti-TgERP antibodies indicates that anti-TgERP serology could be a useful tool for delineating T. gondii transmission routes in human populations. TgERP serology may therefore be an important epidemiological tool for informing the design of tailored, setting-specific public health information campaigns and interventions.

Journal article

Dixon MA, Winskill P, Harrison W, Whittaker C, Schmidt V, Sarti E, Bawm S, Dione MM, Thomas LF, Walker M, Basanez M-Get al., 2020, Force-of-Infection of Taenia solium porcine cysticercosis: a modelling analysis to assess global incidence and prevalence trends, Scientific Reports, Vol: 10, ISSN: 2045-2322

The World Health Organization (WHO) called, in 2012, for a validated strategy towards Taenia solium taeniasis/cysticercosis control and elimination. Estimating pig force-of-infection (FoI, the average rate at which susceptible pigs become infected) across geographical settings will help understand local epidemiology and inform effective intervention design. Porcine cysticercosis (PCC) age-prevalence data (from 15 studies in Latin America, Africa and Asia) were identified through systematic review. Catalytic models were fitted to the data using Bayesian methods, incorporating uncertainty in diagnostic performance, to estimate rates of antibody seroconversion, viable metacestode acquisition, and seroreversion/infection loss. There was evidence of antibody seroreversion across 5 studies, and of infection loss in 6 studies measured by antigen or necropsy, indicating transient serological responses and natural resolution of infection. Concerted efforts should be made to collect robust data using improved diagnostics to better understand geographical heterogeneities in T. solium transmission to support post-2020 WHO targets.

Journal article

Milne G, Fujimoto C, Bean T, Peters HJ, Hemmington M, Taylor C, Fowkes RC, Martineau HM, Hamilton CM, Walker M, Mitchell JA, Leger E, Priestnall SL, Webster JPet al., 2020, Infectious causation of abnormal host behavior: toxoplasma gondiiand Its potential association with dopey fox syndrome, Frontiers in Psychiatry, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-16, ISSN: 1664-0640

The apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, the causative agent of toxoplasmosis, can infect all warm-blooded animals. T. gondii can subtly alter host behaviors—either through manipulation to enhance transmission to the feline definitive host or as a side-effect, or “constraint,” of infection. In humans, T. gondii infection, either alone or in association with other co-infecting neurotropic agents, has been reliably associated with both subtle behavioral changes and, in some cases, severe neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Research on the potential impact of T. gondii on the behavior of other long-lived naturally infected hosts is lacking. Recent studies reported a large number of wild red foxes exhibiting a range of aberrant behavioral traits, subsequently classified as Dopey Fox Syndrome (DFS). Here we assessed the potential association between T. gondii and/or other neurotropic agents with DFS. Live, captive foxes within welfare centers were serologically tested for T. gondii and, if they died naturally, PCR-tested for vulpine circovirus (FoxCV). Post-mortem pseudo-control wild foxes, obtained from pest management companies, were PCR-tested for T. gondii, FoxCV, canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus type (CAV)-1 and CAV-2. We also assessed, using non-invasive assays, whether T. gondii–infected foxes showed subtle behavioral alterations as observed among infected rodent (and other) hosts, including altered activity, risk, and stress levels. All foxes tested negative for CAV, CDV, CHV, and DogCV. DFS was found to be associated with singular T. gondii infection (captives vs. pseudo-controls, 33.3% (3/9) vs. 6.8% (5/74)) and singular FoxCV infection (66.7% (6/9) vs. 11.1% (1/9)) and with T. gondii/FoxCV co-infection (33.3% (3/9) vs. 11.1% (1/9)). Overall, a higher proportion of captive foxes had signs of neuroinflammation compared to pseudo-controls (66.7% (4/6) vs. 11.1% (1/9)). Consistent with behavioral changes

Journal article

Basanez M-G, Milton P, Hamley J, Walker Met al., 2020, Moxidectin: an oral treatment for human onchocerciasis, Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy, Vol: 18, Pages: 1067-1081, ISSN: 1478-7210

Introduction: Moxidectin is a milbemycin endectocide recently approved for the treatment of humanonchocerciasis. Onchocerciasis, earmarked for elimination of transmission, is a filarial infection endemicin Africa, Yemen, and the Amazonian focus straddling Venezuela and Brazil. Concerns over whether thepredominant treatment strategy (yearly mass drug administration (MDA) of ivermectin) is sufficient toachieve elimination in all endemic foci have refocussed attention upon alternative treatments.Moxidectin’s stronger and longer microfilarial suppression compared to ivermectin in both phase IIand III clinical trials indicates its potential as a novel powerful drug for onchocerciasis elimination.Areas covered: This work summarizes the chemistry and pharmacology of moxidectin, reviews thephase II and III clinical trials evidence on tolerability, safety, and efficacy of moxidectin versus ivermectin, and discusses the implications of moxidectin’s current regulatory status.Expert opinion: Moxidectin’s superior clinical performance has the potential to substantially reducetimes to elimination compared to ivermectin. If donated, moxidectin could mitigate the additionalprogrammatic costs of biannual ivermectin distribution because, unlike other alternatives, it can use theexisting community-directed treatment infrastructure. A pediatric indication (for children <12 years) anddetermination of its usefulness in onchocerciasis–loiasis co-endemic areas will greatly help fulfill thepotential of moxidectin for the treatment and elimination of onchocerciasis.

Journal article

Webster JP, Neves MI, Webster BL, Pennance T, Rabone M, Gouvras AN, Allan F, Walker M, Rollinson Det al., 2020, Parasite population genetic contributions to the schistosomiasis consortium for operational research and evaluation within Sub-Saharan Africa, American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Vol: 103, Pages: 80-91, ISSN: 0002-9637

Analyses of the population genetic structure of schistosomes under the “Schistosomiasis Consortium for Operational Research and Evaluation” (SCORE) contrasting treatment pressure scenarios in Tanzania, Niger, and Zanzibar were performed to provide supplementary critical information with which to evaluate the impact of these large-scale control activities and guide how activities could be adjusted. We predicted that population genetic analyses would reveal information on a range of important parameters including, but not exclusive to, recruitment and transmission of genotypes, occurrence of hybridization events, differences in reproductive mode, and degrees of inbreeding, and hence, the evolutionary potential, and responses of parasite populations under contrasting treatment pressures. Key findings revealed that naturally high levels of gene flow and mixing of the parasite populations between neighboring sites were likely to dilute any effects imposed by the SCORE treatment arms. Furthermore, significant inherent differences in parasite fecundity were observed, independent of current treatment arm, but potentially of major impact in terms of maintaining high levels of ongoing transmission in persistent “biological hotspot” sites. Within Niger, naturally occurring Schistosoma haematobium/Schistosoma bovis viable hybrids were found to be abundant, often occurring in significantly higher proportions than that of single-species S. haematobium infections. By examining parasite population genetic structures across hosts, treatment regimens, and the spatial landscape, our results to date illustrate key transmission processes over and above that which could be achieved through standard parasitological monitoring of prevalence and intensity alone, as well as adding to our understanding of Schistosoma spp. life history strategies in general.

Journal article

Hamley J, Walker M, Coffeng LE, Milton P, de Vlas SJ, Stolk WA, Basanez M-Get al., 2020, Structural uncertainty in onchocerciasis transmission models influences the estimation of elimination thresholds and selection of age groups for seromonitoring, Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol: 221, Pages: S510-S518, ISSN: 0022-1899

Background. The World Health Organization recommends monitoring Ov16 serologyin children aged <10 years for stopping mass ivermectin administration. Transmission models can help to identify the most informative age groups for serological monitoring and investigate the discriminatory power of serology-based elimination thresholds.Model predictions will depend on assumed age-exposure patterns and transmission efficiency at low infection levels. Methods. The individual-based transmission model, EPIONCHO-IBM, was used toassess: i) the most informative age groups for serological monitoring using receiveroperator characteristic curves for different elimination thresholds under various age-dependent exposure assumptions, including those of ONCHOSIM (another widely-used model), and ii) the influence of within-human density-dependent parasite establishment (included in EPIONCHO-IBM but not in ONCHOSIM) on positive predictive values for different serological thresholds.Results. When assuming EPIONCHO-IBM exposure patterns, under-10s are themost informative age group for seromonitoring; when assuming ONCHOSIM’s exposure patterns, 5–15-year olds are the most informative (as published elsewhere).Omitting density-dependent parasite establishment results in more lenientseroprevalence thresholds, even for higher baseline infection prevalence and shorter treatment durations.Conclusions. Selecting appropriate seromonitoring age groups depends critically onage-dependent exposure patterns. The role of density dependence on elimination thresholds largely explains differing EPIONCHO-IBM and ONCHOSIM elimination predictions.

Journal article

Walker M, Hamley JID, Milton P, Monnot F, Pedrique B, Basáñez M-Get al., 2020, Designing antifilarial drug trials using clinical trial simulators, Nature Communications, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-11, ISSN: 2041-1723

Lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis are neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) targeted for elimination by mass (antifilarial) drug administration. These drugs are predominantly active against the microfilarial progeny of adult worms. New drugs or combinations are needed to improve patient therapy and to enhance the effectiveness of interventions in persistent hotspots of transmission. Several therapies and regimens are currently in (pre-)clinical testing. Clinical trial simulators (CTSs) project patient outcomes to inform the design of clinical trials but have not been widely applied to NTDs, where their resource-saving payoffs could be highly beneficial. We demonstrate the utility of CTSs using our individual-based onchocerciasis transmission model (EPIONCHO-IBM) that projects trial outcomes of a hypothetical macrofilaricidal drug. We identify key design decisions that influence the power of clinical trials, including participant eligibility criteria and post-treatment follow-up times for measuring infection indicators. We discuss how CTSs help to inform target product profiles.

Journal article

Behrend M, Basanez M-G, Hamley JID, Porco TC, Stolk WA, Walker M, de Vlas SJet al., 2020, Modelling for policy: the five principles of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Modelling Consortium, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, ISSN: 1935-2727

Journal article

Nana Djeunga H, Domche A, Niamsi-Emalio Y, Moungui H, Walker M, Kamgno J, Basanez M-Get al., 2020, Situation analysis of onchocerciasis in Cameroon: a protocol for systematic review of epidemiological studies and impact of disease control interventions, Systematic Reviews, ISSN: 2046-4053

Journal article

Dixon M, Braae UC, Winskill P, Devleesschauwer B, Trevisan C, Van Damme I, Walker M, Hamley JID, Ramiandrasoa SN, Schmidt V, Gabriël S, Harrison W, Basanez M-Get al., 2020, Modelling for Taenia solium control strategies beyond 2020, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Vol: 98, Pages: 198-205, ISSN: 0042-9686

The cestode Taenia solium is responsible for a considerable cross-sectoral health and economic burden due to human neurocysticercosis and porcine cysticercosis. The 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) roadmap for neglected tropical diseases called for the development of a validated strategy for control of T. solium; however, such a strategy is not yet available. In 2019, WHO launched a global consultation aimed at refining the post-2020 targets for control of T. solium for a new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases. In response, two groups working on taeniasis and cysticercosis mathematical models (cystiSim and EPICYST models), together with a range of other stakeholders organized a workshop to provide technical input to the WHO consultation and develop a research plan to support efforts to achieve the post-2020 targets. The workshop led to the formation of a collaboration, CystiTeam, which aims to tackle the population biology, transmission dynamics, epidemiology and control of T. solium through mathematical modelling approaches. In this paper, we outline developments in T. solium control and in particular the use of modelling to help achieve post-2020 targets for control of T. solium. We discuss the steps involved in improving confidence in the predictive capacities of existing mathematical and computational models on T. soliumtransmission, including model comparison, refinement, calibration and validation. Expanding the CystiTeam partnership to other research groups and stakeholders, particularly those operating in different geographical and endemic areas, will enhance the prospects of improving the applicability of T. solium transmission models to inform taeniasis and cysticercosis control strategies.

Journal article

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