Birgit Nikolay joined the MMMI unit as PostDoc in September 2015. Her main research interest is the investigation of infectious disease emergence in human populations, from spillovers to interhuman transmission and outbreak management, and the development of strategies for the prevention of future pandemic threats. Infectious disease emergence is a complex phenomenon, and depends on the interplay of multiple factors including molecular characteristics of the pathogen, host and vector components of the transmission cycle, exposure of humans at the animal/human interface, epidemic dynamics following pathogen introduction into human populations, as well as surveillance capacities determining delays in outbreak detection and control. The focus of Birgit’s studies is therefore to develop research frameworks that allow to take these multiple layers into account by combining information generated from different disciplines. Part of her research focuses on understanding spillovers, interhuman transmission and optimal control strategies of Nipah virus in Bangladesh, which is a paramyxovirus found among fruit bats in South and Southeast Asia that causes highly fatal disease among humans and is one of the WHO prioritized emerging pathogens.
Previously, Birgit obtained a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Vienna, during which she investigated the transmission of Usutu virus, a mosquito-borne flavivirus, at Institut Pasteur de Dakar. During her first PostDoc at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she investigated the general epidemiology of neglected tropical diseases and developed tools to inform and support national disease control programs.