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Publication Detail
From the micro to the macro to improve health: microorganism ecology and society in teaching infectious disease epidemiology.
Abstract
Chronic and emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance remain a substantial global health threat. Microbiota are increasingly recognised to play an important role in health. Infections also have a profound effect beyond health, especially on global and local economies. To maximise health improvements, the field of infectious disease epidemiology needs to derive learning from ecology and traditional epidemiology. New methodologies and tools are transforming understanding of these systems, from a better understanding of socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural drivers of infection, to improved methods to detect microorganisms, describe the immunome, and understand the role of human microbiota. However, exploiting the potential of novel methods to improve global health remains elusive. We argue that to exploit these advances a shift is required in the teaching of infectious disease epidemiology to ensure that students are well versed in a breadth of disciplines, while maintaining core epidemiological skills. We discuss the following key points using a series of teaching vignettes: (1) integrated training in classic and novel techniques is needed to develop future scientists and professionals who can work from the micro (interactions between pathogens, their cohabiting microbiota, and the host at a molecular and cellular level), with the meso (the affected communities), and to the macro (wider contextual drivers of disease); (2) teach students to use a team-science multidisciplinary approach to effectively integrate biological, clinical, epidemiological, and social tools into public health; and (3) develop the intellectual skills to critically engage with emerging technologies and resolve evolving ethical dilemmas. Finally, students should appreciate that the voices of communities affected by infection need to be kept at the heart of their work.
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