Identifying mechanisms and drivers for Nipah virus dynamics in Pteropus bat populations

Nipah virus (NiV) is an emerging zoonotic disease with a high mortality rate (40-75%) and the potential to evolve pandemic capability. It is also recognised as a potential biological warfare agent in the context of bioterrorism and is a World Health Organisation priority pathogen. Discovered in 1999, following an outbreak in Malaysian pig farms, human outbreaks occur yearly in Bangladesh and India. Research has shown that Pteropus bats are the main wildlife reservoir of NiV in Asia, however, little is known about NiV circulation and genetic diversity within and between bat populations. Increased understanding of this understudied area is an important aspect of preventing NiV spillovers from bat populations into human populations, thereby reducing the risk of a NiV epidemic or pandemic, which, as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, could have a catastrophic impact on human health, the global economy, and all areas of society.

Mechanistic compartment models of pathogen transmission have enabled researchers to move beyond statistical correlation and explore hypotheses for causation of disease dynamics within populations. There have been few models of NiV in bats and only within single Pteropus populations. However, the population structure of Pteropus bats may be better studied as a metapopulation and recent work by Henrik Salje (co-supervisor on this project) using genetic sequence data suggests that there is well-established and extensive diversity of NiV across bat populations, with a clear spatiotemporal structure.

The project:

You will:

  1. Develop a novel mathematical framework, informed by genetic sequence data, which describes NiV infection dynamics across multiple bat populations

  2. Use this framework to identify probable mechanisms and drivers for the dynamics observed

  3. Investigate (within the mathematical framework) how these mechanisms and drivers could best be targeted as part of novel interventions for the prevention of NiV spillover, under current and hypothetical future rates of transmission

You will be part of a supportive and stimulating research environment at the University of Liverpool, with Dr Emily Nixon ( as your primary supervisor, with further support from Kieran Sharkey and external supervisors at the University of Cambridge (Henrik Salje and Olivier Restif).

PhD position
University of Liverpool
Closing date
February 13th, 2023
Posted on
January 17th, 2023 10:13
Last updated
January 17th, 2023 10:13