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Canada-China Workshop “Mathematics and Informatics for Public Health”, China, May 2014

The “Mathematics and Informatics for Public Health” workshop was held from May 7-12, 2014 
at the Chern Institute of Mathematics of Nankai University (Tianjin) and at the Centre for 
International Collaborative Research of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention 
(China CDC) in Beijing, China. 

A full report on the “Mathematics and Informatics for Public Health” workshop is available online.

Indigenous populations may be at higher risk of H7N9 infection when compared with other ethnicities

In March 2013, the first human contracted case of the new avian influenza (bird flu) virus, H7N9 was reported in China. There have been more than 350 confirmed human cases to date, resulting in more than 100 deaths. An interdisciplinary team of scientists from York University and the Public Health Ontario Laboratories conducted a large-scale whole proteome-wide immunoinformatics analysis to predict the susceptibility of different ethnic populations against the H7N9 virus. The study outcome identified the likely presence of cross-reactive T cell immunity in humans against the H7N9 virus; however, this cross-reactive immunity varies considerably across different ethnic populations. It was found that indigenous populations from various regions (including Canada) may be at an elevated risk of contracting H7N9. This is due in part to their high susceptibility to contracting flu viruses during previous pandemic flu events. “This information could be crucial for public health policy decision makers in targeting priority ethnic groups for immunization programs” according to the lead author Dr. Venkata Duvvuri, a research scientist at York University’s Centre for Disease Modelling. This study was published in PLoS One on March 7, 2014.

This new H7N9 virus is genetically different form from the previously reported human influenza A virus subtypes, H1N1, 2009 H1N1, H2N2, and H3N2. Hence, the current seasonal flu vaccine cannot provide protection from the H7N9.  An immunological study in China revealed the absence of cross-protective antibodies in human populations against H7N9 because of its novel genetic nature. Thus, if exposed to the H7N9 virus, the human immune system may not be ready to induce cross-protective antibodies to prevent infection – explaining why humans are at high risk of contracting H7N9. In the absence of antibodies, the T-cells play a critical role in protecting against novel flu strains based on the very similar (conserved) and shared segments of viral proteins (called epitopes) between the new flu virus and earlier (old) flu viruses. The human immune system has a remarkable ability to memorise previous flu viruses by recognizing the epitopes. T-cells recognize epitopes when they are bound to molecules related to the immune function called Human Leucocyte Antigens (HLA). This epitope-specific memory T cells attenuated the disease severity during the 2009 H1N1 virus pandemic (though it is a novel flu strain) in the absence of antibodies. Hence, it is important to assess preexisting T-cell immunity in the human population against the H7N9 virus. In addition, determining the vulnerability of different ethnic populations to H7N9 infection is critical for public health planning.

The research project was funded by the Canada Research Chairs program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and International Development Research Centre. “We have been developing our Centre’s capacity to perform immunoinformatics and evolutionary genomics analyses of emerging viruses, and this work shows how this capacity has transformed into research outcomes with significant potential for policy impact”, said Dr. Jianhong Wu, the Director of the Centre for Disease Modelling.


Duvvuri VR, Duvvuri B, Alice C, Wu GE, Gubbay JB and Wu J. (2014) Preexisting CD4+ T-Cell Immunity in Human Population to Avian Influenza H7N9 Virus: Whole Proteome-Wide Immunoinformatics Analyses. PLoS ONE 9(3): e91273. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091273.

Outreaching to South Africa: Workshop on Theoretical and Mathematical Epidemiology, South Africa, March 2014

Three members of the Centre for Disease Modeling (CDM), Canada, namely Julien Arino (University of Manitoba), Michael Li (University of Alberta), Pauline van den Driessche (University of Victoria), together with Anuj Mubayi (North-eastern Illinois University, USA), were invited to give lectures at a workshop on "Theoretical and Mathematical Epidemiology".

This workshop was held during the week March 3-8 2014 at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the University of Pretoria (UP) as part of the Research and Innovation week at UNISA. They CDM team and Dr. Mubayi gave a total of 18 lectures to a core group of around 30 students from several South African provinces, with many other local people attending some of the lectures. The enthusiastic students, who came from diverse backgrounds, were assigned group modeling projects, most of which have direct relevance to South Africa (e.g., TB and HIV co-infection in the country's gold miners, the role of education in the prevention of HIV, strategies to control malaria in high burden areas). Julien and Michael stayed an extra 10 days at UNISA and UP to mentor students with these projects.

This very successful workshop, which is planned as the first in in a series of three workshops to be held over the next three years, was superbly organized.

CDM congratulates Dr. Justin Munganga (UNISA), Prof. Jean Lubuma (UP) and the cheerful, hardworking students for a successful workshop, and CDM thanks them for the hospitality and support. The workshop was generously funded by the office of Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice Principal: Research and Innovation, UNISA and Prof. Jean Lubuma: DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Mathematical Models and Methods in Bioengineering and Biosciences, UP.

Study Abroad Program -- Accepting applications until Feb. 15th

Study Abroad Opportunity

The CDM is offering a bi-lateral exchange program for students. Canadian students currently affiliated with the CDM can study at a leading institution in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam. Students from a university within Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey or Vietnam also have the opportunity to come to Canada and study under the supervision of a CDM faculty member.

  • Design a collaborative research project with your home supervisor and a reseacher in one of our partner countries
  • Placements are for 3-6 months, taking place at any point during the year
  • Up to $5,000 in support for student travel expenses
  • Open to senior undergraduate and graduate students
  • Download the application form and email to if you are interested
  • Please discuss this opportunity with your home supervisor before applying
  • Applications are due on February 15, 2014

*View a list of CDM faculty members accepting applications. Please indicate which member you would like to work with in your application. 

*The program is funded by Mitacs Global link. More information on the program guidelines and eligibility criteria is available on Mitacs' website


Epidemics in the air: CDM-EPIDELAY collaboration featured by SIAM Nuggets

In a joint article  published at the SIAM Journal on Applied Dynamical Systems, Diána H. Knipl, Gergely Röst, and Jianhong Wu develop a mathematical model, anti-gravity in principle, to analyze the contribution of on-board infection to epidemic spread in regions connected by international flights. This is one of a series of collaborative results between the CDM and the ERC EPIDELAY project based at the Bolyai Institute.

CDM mourns the loss of a strong believer and supporter of interdisciplinary research for infectious diseases control

The Centre for Disease Modelling is sad to have heard of the loss of our dear colleague and supporter, Donald. We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of Dr. Donald Low, a scientist, a leader, and a true gentlemen!

The Centre for Disease Modelling was born during the SARS crisis, and we benefited very much from the support of the Canadian SARS Consortium under the leadership of Dr. Low. Dr. Low has always been a true believer and supporter of interdisciplinary collaboration in infectious disease control. Many members of the Centre have interacted and collaborated with Dr. Low in various capacities. These interactions and collaborations will become our permanent memory of Donald, a compassionate man while fighting bravely and brilliantly with a deadly virus.

Jianhong Wu, on behalf of CDM 

The BIG problem with BIG data for a SMALL cluster of interns

Over the past month, three undergraduate students: Mark Freeman (Harvard University), James McVittie (University of Toronto) and Iryna Sivak (Taras Shevchenko National University) in the Fields Undergraduate Research Program under the supervision of Professor Jianhong Wu (York University) have been studying the way information (i.e. news articles, videos, photos, etc.) propagates through the online social network 

Click here for more on this article 

A long-time CDM collaborator received the Governor general’s gold medal winner for unlocking mysteries of immune system

The CDM extends the warmest congratulation to Bhargavi Duvvuri (PhD ’12) for winning the gold Governor General’s Academic Medal. Her work has been dedicated to unlocking and mapping the mysteries of human immune diversity in the context of immunodeficiency and autoimmunity. Dr. Duvvuri shares not only the family tie with CDM, but has been collaborating with members of CDM in a number of projects.

Click here for more on this story. 

CHRP announced its funding support for the antimicrobial resistance project

The Collaborative Health Research Projects (CHRP) has announced its support to the project "Development of an Antimicrobial Resistance Diversity Index (ARDI) to guide initiatives and investment in public health, antimicrobial stewardship and infection control". 

The project team, led by Jianhong Wu (Centre for Disease  Modelling) and Andrew Morris (Mount Sinai Hospital), consists of an accomplished cluster of researchers representing both the health and natural sciences: Troy Day (Queen's University), Jennifer Grant (University of British Columbia), Amy Hurford (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Allison McGeer (Mount Sinai Hospital), David Patrick (University of British Columbia), Lynora Saxinger (University of Alberta), Thomas Wong (Public Health Agency of Canada), and Gerry Wright (McMaster University).

MPE 2013 Summer School on Mathematics of Infectious Diseases admission is closed

MPE 2013 Summer School on Mathematics of Infectious Diseases admission is now closed. Please visit the Summer School website for other information.