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Dr Sarah Perkins


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI studied Environmental Science at Plymouth University after which I worked for the UK Wildlife Trusts as a Conservation Officer. I started my research career several years later with a NERC Fellowship at Aberdeen University studying for a MSc Ecology. After this, I completed my PhD at Stirling University with Prof. Peter Hudson, studying the ecological dynamics of disease with a NERC Fellowship based at the Centro di Ecologia Alpina in the Italian Alps. My post-doc took me to the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) at Penn State University. I returned to the UK in 2009 to start a Marie Curie Fellowship at Cardiff University, after completion of which became a Lecturer at Cardiff University.

My current research focuses on:

  • How social networks shape disease dynamics
  • Helminths as vectors of bacteria
  • Using bioluminescent reporters to study real-time in vivo pathogen dynamics
  • Wildlife diseases of small mammals


Position:   Lecturer
Telephone:   +44(0)29 208 70490
Extension:   70490
Location:   Cardiff School of Biosciences, The Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX Room: C6.07


I use a combination of field and laboratory experiments to determine the role of variation in infectious diseases.

What is the role of super-spreaders in disease persistence?

Individuals within a population are not equal; they differ in their exposure and susceptibility to parasites. These heterogeneities in infection status can create “super-spreaders”: hosts that have a disproportionately high contribution to the number of infective stages (often, 20% of the host population can account for at least 80% of pathogen and parasite transmission). Using parasites of small mammals and lab-insect systems I determine whether the most infected are also the most connected. Using these data I investigate the effect of co-infection, contact rates and infection load on super-spreading.

How do social networks alter disease dynamics?


Contacts between individuals are not equal – social network theory offers methods for visualizing and quantifying variation in contacts. I use social network analyses to determine the role of individuals in disease transmission and assess how epizootics and disease treatment can alter the contact structure of populations.

How do parasites interact?

Parasites within an individual do not function in isolation. Using a variety of techniques I monitor and manipulate the parasite community structure of a population of rodents to determine how co-infection alters parasite dynamics and shapes the community composition of the gut microbiome.

Helminths as vectors of pathogens 

Some pathogens can associate with helminths to facilitate transmission between hosts. I am using bioluminescent reporter systems to determine the role that helminths play as vectors of bacterial pathogens in vertebrates. I am also investigating what ecological advantages may accrue to bacteria that associate with free-living bactiverous nematodes.

Using bioluminescent reporters to study real-time in vivo pathogen dynamics

In collaboration with Dr. Vyv Salisbury at the University of West England, UK, I use an in-vivo real-time imaging system to shed light on the dynamics of co-infection. Using an insect-pathogen system I use self-bioluminescent bacteria to determine how contacts patterns and pathogen load results in transmission between infected and susceptible individuals.

Citizen Science

I currently run; a Social media PLATform for Estimating wildlife Roadkill. These data are available to all interested parties and are currently being used on research projects investigating badgers and bovine TB, otters and Toxoplasma gondii and deer and cryptosporidium.


Link to ScopusTM Database

Click here to see all publications

Selected Publications:

Kreisinger J., Bastien G., Haugge H.C., Marchesi J., Perkins S. E. (2015). Interactions between multiple helminths and the gut microbiota in wild rodents. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 370. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0295

Pi C., Allott E.H., Ren D., Poulton S., Ryan Lee S.Y., Perkins S. E., Everett M.L., Holzknecht Z.E, Lin S.S., Parker W. (2015). Increased biodiversity in the environment improves the humoral response of rats. PLoS ONE 10 (4): e0120255. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.012025

Drewe J., Perkins S. E. (2014). Disease Transmission in Animal Social Networks. In: Krause, J., James, R., Franks, D., Croft, D. (eds.). Animal Social Networks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 95-109.

Lass S., Hudson P.J., Thakar J., Saric J., Harvill E., Albert R., Perkins S.E. (2013). Generating super-shedders: co-infection increases bacterial load and egg production of a gastrointestinal. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 10: no. 80. Available open access:

White T.A., Perkins S.E. (2012). The ecoimmunology of invasive species. Functional Ecology, 26: 1313-1323. Featured in the Functional Ecology Special Issue ‘Invasions and Infections’, edited by Alison Dunn and Sarah Perkins.

Ferrari M.J., Perkins S.E., Pomeroy L.W., Bjørnstad O.N. (2011). Pathogens, social networks, and the paradox of transmission scaling. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases. doi: 10.1155/2011/267049. Epub 201a.

Fenton A., Perkins S.E. (2010). Applying predator-prey theory to modelling immune-mediated, within-host interspecific parasite interactions. Parasitology. 6: 1027-1038. Faculty of 1000 recommended paper.

Perkins S.E., Cagnacci F., Stradiotto A., Arnoldi D. & Hudson, P.J. (2009). A comparison of social networks derived from ecological data: implications for inferring infectious disease dynamics. Journal of Animal Ecology. 78: 1015–1022. Republished in a special ‘virtual’ issue of Journal of Animal Ecology – ‘Wildlife Disease Ecology’. See the editorial on this paper at:

Lacharme-Lora L., Perkins S.E., Humphrey T.J., Hudson P.J., Salisbury V. (2009). Use of bioluminescent bacterial biosensors to investigate the role of free-living helminths as reservoirs and vectors of Salmonella. Environmental Microbiology Reports 3: 198-220.

Grear D., Perkins S.E., Hudson P.J. (2009). The effect of elevated testosterone on social networks. Ecology Letters 12: 528-37.

Perkins S.E., Cattadori I.M., Tagliapietra V., Rizzoli A.P., Hudson P.J. (2006) Localised deer absence leads to loss of the dilution effect and tick amplification. Ecology 87: 1981-1986

Perkins, S.E., & Fenton, A. (2006). ‘Worms and Germs’: Helminths as vectors of pathogens in vertebrate hosts: A theoretical approach. International Journal for Parasitology, 36: 887-894.

Perkins, S.E., Cattadori, I.M., Tagliapietra, V., Rizzoli, A.P. & Hudson, P.J. (2003). Empirical evidence for key hosts in persistence of a tick-borne disease. International Journal for Parasitology. 33: 909-917.