Ecology shapes evolution, and the consequences of pathogen evolution can be severe. For example, the evolution of antimicrobial resistance can render previously treatable infections lethal. Some estimates predict that by the year 2050, nearly 10,000,000 people will die each year due to antimicrobial resistant infections.
Research in the Kennedy lab focuses on gaining a mechanistic understanding of disease ecology that can be used to understand pathogen evolution. This knowledge can be used to delay, prevent, or reverse adverse pathogen evolution. It can also be used to gain insight into general ecological theory and its evolutionary consequences, because both ecological and evolutionary dynamics occur on short timescales. This leads us to ask questions such as: Why does drug resistance readily evolve but vaccine resistance does not? Which evolutionary forces shape pathogen diversity within hosts? What ecological mechanisms generate variation in infectious disease dynamics and how can we use this knowledge to reduce the burden of disease?