The Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) leads domestic and international training programs in the use of molecular methods for microbial surveillance and discovery. CII has established unique partnerships with academic and public health institutions and governmental agencies in over 40 countries to provide assistance with pathogen discovery and surveillance and to provide expertise in managing outbreaks.
In the last year, The CII received a $31 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Center for Research in Diagnostics and Discovery, which brings together leading investigators in microbial and human genetics, engineering, microbial ecology, and public health to develop insights into mechanisms of disease and methods for detecting infectious agents, characterizing microflora and identifying biomarkers that can be used to guide clinical management. The CII continued its work assisting Saudi institutions in surveillance and response to the threat of MERS coronavirus. In partnership with King Saud University, the CII found that a majority of Saudi camels carry antibodies to the virus and that the virus has been present in local camel populations for at least 20 years. The CII-King Saud team also extracted live infectious virus from Saudi camels that matched the virus found in humans, indicating that camels are a likely source of the outbreak. In addition, The CII has been involved in the global response to the deadly Ebola outbreak, and is currently developing a diagnostic test that will allow for rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Website Predicts Weekly Influenza Outbreaks
Infectious disease experts at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health have launched a website that reports weekly predictions for rates of seasonal influenza in cities across the U.S. based on a scientifically validated system. The URL is cpid.iri.columbia.edu.
The flu forecasting system adapts techniques used in modern weather prediction to turn real-time, Web-based estimates of influenza infection into local forecasts of future influenza incidence by locality. “People can see the outlook for seasonal flu in their area by going online,” says Dr. Jeffrey Shaman associate professor of environmental health sciences at the Mailman School, who led the development of the site and forecasting system.
Website features include: an interactive map of the U.S. displays the relative severity of seasonal flu in cities across the country with flu and incidence numbers for each; influenza incidence predictions by city for the coming weeks; a map that illustrates the proportion of flu cases by region; and charts that compare the timing and severity of the four most recent flu seasons.
Student Surge Capacity for Outbreak Investigation
The Student Surge Capacity for Outbreak Investigation (Team Epi) is an educational collaborative program between the Mailman School of Public Health, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). Team Epi, which is not limited to epidemiology graduate students, recruits and trains student volunteers from epidemiology, environmental health sciences, and biostatistics to provide surge capacity support of epidemiological investigations at the NYC DOHMH in the event of an outbreak in New York City. Each of these disciplines brings a set of skills to the overall goal of providing surge capacity to the NYC DOHMH during high volume large-scale outbreaks and emergencies or disasters.
The course is offered each semester as an on-going request from the NYC Department of Health to prepare graduate students in outbreak response.
Dr. Stephen Morse is a co-founder of the program and presents to the students throughout the year on outbreak investigation interviewing strategies. This project has been consistently a success for both the NYC DOHMH and Mailman School public health graduate students.