Imperial College London

Dr Zulma M Cucunubá

Faculty of MedicineSchool of Public Health

MRC/Rutherford Fund Research Fellow







G27Medical SchoolSt Mary's Campus






I'm an MRC Rutherford Fund Research Fellow at Imperial College London. My research focuses on using statistic and mathematical methods to understand the determinants of the spread of infection diseases and the impact of control strategies, with a particular focus in Latin America. 

I have mainly worked on vector bone diseases including Chagas disease, Zika, Chikungunya and Malaria. More recently I have been working on emerging infections, epidemic response and vaccine preventable diseases.

My background includes Medicine and Public Health and a PhD on Infectious Disease Epidemiology. I did a postdoc with the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium (2017). I was awarded the MRC Rutherford Fund Fellowship 2017-2020.


 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

Villar JC, Herrera VM, Pérez Carreño JG, et al., 2019, Nifurtimox versus benznidazole or placebo for asymptomatic Trypanosoma cruzi infection (Equivalence of Usual Interventions for Trypanosomiasis - EQUITY): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial, Trials, Vol:20, ISSN:1745-6215, Pages:431-431

Rodriguez-Mongui E, Cantillo-Barraza O, Prieto F, et al., 2019, Heterogeneity of Trypanosoma cruzi infection rates in vectors and animal reservoirs in Colombia: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Parasites & Vectors, Vol:12, ISSN:1756-3305

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 Perez Z, Nouvellet P, Peterson J, et al., 2018, Complementary paths to chagas disease elimination: the impact of combining vector control with aetiological treatment, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Vol:66, ISSN:1058-4838, Pages:S293-S300

Cucunuba Perez 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 Global Health, Vol:2, ISSN:2059-7908

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


Flaxman S, Mishra S, Gandy A, et al., 2020, Report 13: Estimating the number of infections and the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in 11 European countries

Walker P, Whittaker C, Watson O, et al., 2020, Report 12: The global impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression

Ainslie K, Walters C, Fu H, et al., 2020, Report 11: Evidence of initial success for China exiting COVID-19 social distancing policy after achieving containment

Ferguson N, Laydon D, Nedjati Gilani G, et al., 2020, Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand

Thompson H, Imai N, Dighe A, et al., 2020, Report 7: Estimating infection prevalence in Wuhan City from repatriation flights

Bhatia S, Imai N, Cuomo-Dannenburg G, et al., 2020, Report 6: Relative sensitivity of international surveillance, Report 6: Relative sensitivity of international surveillance

More Publications