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Colin Russell

Epidemiology and evolution of viruses

My research focuses on the interface between infectious disease evolution and epidemiology. I am particularly interested in how processes operating at different evolutionary and epidemiological scales act in concert to give rise to patterns in disease population dynamics. The majority of my work focuses on influenza viruses due to the wealth of available data, the breadth of unanswered fundamental questions, and the opportunity for major public health impact.

Current work mostly falls into four major areas:

  1. The global movement of human seasonal influenza viruses.
  2. Mapping heterogeneities in surveillance and cross-species transmission risk.
  3. Predictability of virus evolution.
  4. Linking within-host and between-host virus dynamics.

I am also one of the chief scientists of the University of Cambridge WHO Collaborating Centre for Modelling, Evolution and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Key Publications

Google scholar -  list of all publications

Global circulation patterns of seasonal influenza viruses vary with antigenic drift. Bedford T, S Riley, IG Barr, S Broor, M Chadha, NJ Cox, RS Daniels, CP Gunasekaran, AC Hurt, A Kelso, A Klimov, NS Lewis, X Li, JW McCauley, T Odagiri, V Potdar, A Rambaut, Y Shu, E Skepner, DJ Smith, MA Suchard, M Tashiro, D Wang, X Xu, P Lemey, CA Russell.  Nature. 523:217-220. (2015) 

Improving pandemic influenza risk assessment. Russell CA, P Kasson, RO Donis, J Dunbar, J Asher, S Burke, CT Davis, R Garten, S Gnanakaran, S Hay, S Herfst, N Lewis, J Lloyd-Smith, C Macken, S Maurer-Stroh, E Neuhaus, C Parrish, K Pepin, A Rambaut, S Riley, S Shepard, DL Smith, D Suarez, S Trock, M-A Widdowson, D George, M Lipsitch, JD Bloom.  eLife. 3:e03883. (2014) 

Circulating avian influenza viruses with pandemic potential due to their relatedness to the 1918 virus. Watanabe T*, G Zhang*, CA Russell*, N Nakajima, M Hatta, A Hanson, R McBride, S Watanabe, M Imai, G Neumann, H Hasegawa, J Paulson, DJ Smith, Y Kawaoka.  Cell Host & Microbe. 15:692-705. (2014) *co-first authors

The potential for airborne transmissible avian A/H5N1 influenza viruses to evolve in nature. Russell CA, J Fonville, AEX Brown, DF Burke, DL Smith, S James, S Herfst, S van Boheeman, M Linster, EJ Schwauren, L Katzelnick, A Mosterin, T Kuiken, E Maher, G Neumann,  ADME Osterhaus, Y Kawaoka, RAM Fouchier, DJ Smith.  Science. 336:1541-1547. (2012) 

Antigenic and genetic characteristics of swine-origin 2009 A(H1N1) influenza viruses circulating in humans. Garten RJ, CT Davis, CA Russell, B Shu, S Lindstrom, A Balish, WM Sessions, X Xu, E Skepner, V Deyde, M Okomo-Adhiambo, L Gubareva, J Barnes, CB Smith, SL Emery, MJ Hillman, P Rivailler, J Smagala, M de Graaf,  DF Burke, RAM Fouchier, C Pappas, CM Alpuche-Aranda, H López-Gatell, H Olivera, I López, CA Myers, D Faix, PJ Blair, C Yu, KM Keene, PD Dotson, D Boxrud, AR Sambol, SH Abid, K St. George, T Bannerman, AL Moore, DJ Stringer, P Blevins, GJ Demmler-Harrison, M Ginsberg, P Kriner, S Waterman, S Smole, HF Guevara, EA Belongia, PA Clark, ST Beatrice, R Donis, J Katz, L Finelli, CB Bridges, M Shaw, DB Jernigan, TM Uyeki, DJ Smith, AI Klimov, NJ Cox.  Science. 325:197-201. (2009)

The global circulation of seasonal influenza A(H3N2) viruses. Russell CA, TC Jones, IG Barr, NJ Cox, R Garten, V Gregory, I Gust, AW Hampson, AJ Hay, AC Hurt, JC de Jong, AI Klimov, T Kageyama, N Komadina, AS Lapedes, YP Lin, A Mosterin, M Obuchi, T Odagiri, ADME Osterhaus, GF Rimmelzwaan, MW Shaw, E Skepner, K Stohr, M Tashiro, RAM Fouchier, DJ Smith.  Science. 320:340-346. (2008) 


Colin Russell

Dr Colin Russell

Principal Research Associate

Royal Society University Research Fellow

Plain english

Much of the burden of infectious disease today is caused by antigenically variable pathogens. These pathogens share a variety of characteristics that combine to profoundly challenge biological and medical research. They evolve to escape immunity induced by prior infection or vaccination. They become resistant to existing drugs. They can infect individuals multiple times over the course over their lives. Influenza viruses are classic examples of antigenically variable pathogens and, by virtue of the wealth of available data, offer outstanding potential to study how epidemiology and evolution interact to give rise to epidemics.


Royal Society

Isaac Newton Trust

Wellcome Trust

Colin is currently accepting applications from PhD students. Colin is also available for consultancy.