Skip to main content

Afonso Dimas Martins


Track: 10, Tools to explore risk of emergence of vector-borne diseases in ecosystems


Prof. dr. ir. J.A.P. (Hans) Heesterbeek (UU)

Primary Supervisor

Prof. dr. ir. J.A.P. (Hans) Heesterbeek (UU)


dr. Quirine ten Bosch (WUR)


Utrecht University


Description PhD project

To accurately study the establishment of a vector-borne disease and the possible development of an outbreak, we must understand the species present in that given ecosystem. The dynamics of a vector-borne disease will then be affected directly by the species that serve as a host for the vector, their respective ecological and epidemiological interactions, as well as indirectly by predators or competitors of the host species, competition with other vector species and the ecological interaction with non-host species. If we are to quantify emergence capabilities for vector-borne diseases it is crucial to understand the influence of the ecosystem context and interactions.

Models and computational tools will be developed to gain new insights and quantify the influence of ecosystem characteristics on the emergence of vector-borne diseases. Some of the ongoing projects include understanding the trade-off between vector feeding preferences and co-infection penalty on the emergence of a second disease; optimizing models for ecosystems with multiple vectors and multiple hosts; or determining the minimum number of host classes that can accurately describe superspreading events.

In a nutshell, some objectives of my project are: extending the generic modelling approach to fully incorporate vectors, hosts, and non-competent species, with a special focus on their respective ecological interactions; quantifying how these species interactions affect the basic reproduction number using compartmental models; and evaluating the sensitivity and elasticity of these estimates.

Publications and student supervision

August 2021 – Submitted article for the Journal of Theoretical Biology: “The influence of competition on the invasion risk of mosquito-borne pathogens in ecosystems” (Current status: under review)

November 2021 – One Health Master Student thesis defense (co-supervision with Sam Boerlijst, promotor Prof. dr. ir. J.A.P. Hans Heesterbeek)