Alex Mastin

Dr Alexander Mastin

Research Fellow in Ecological/Epidemiological Simulation Modelling

Office Times

Please contact me by e-mail

Biography

I originally studied veterinary science at the University of Liverpool, taking one year out to complete a Wellcome Trust-funded intercalated degree in veterinary pathology at the Royal Veterinary College. This piqued my interest in a research career, but following graduation in 2005, I decided to give veterinary medicine a chance and joined a small animal veterinary practice in south Manchester. Although I learned a lot over the two years I spent in clinical practice, this experience convinced me that research was for me. I applied to study veterinary epidemiology on a master’s degree course run jointly by the Royal Veterinary College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and was granted a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council scholarship to study on this course.

Following this, I remained at the Royal Veterinary College, working as a research assistant to Professor Dirk Pfeiffer. During this time, my work was largely focussed on animal viruses which have the potential to infect people (such as influenza viruses), and on the effects of biosecurity practices on reducing disease in cattle farms. As well as gaining experience in veterinary epidemiology, my time being mentored by Professor Pfeiffer instilled in me a sense of the importance of working across different research fields. Inspired by this (and driven by a longstanding fascination with tapeworms), I moved to the University of Salford to study for a PhD in parasite ecology with Professor Philip Craig – one of the foremost global authorities on Echinococcus tapeworms.

These tapeworms are zoonotic (i.e. they can spread from their normal animal hosts, such as dogs, to humans), and my PhD investigated how best to monitor and evaluate echinococcosis control schemes in China and the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan using diagnostic tests developed here at the University of Salford. Following on from the completion of my PhD, I was given the opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to bridging research disciplines when I made the transition into botanical epidemiology, and I began work as a postdoctoral research fellow under Dr Stephen Parnell. My research since then has been focussed on improving early detection surveillance methods for invasive plant pathogens, which are an increasing problem worldwide.

Teaching

I currently teach statistics and simulation modelling to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and am always happy to offer informal statistical and modelling assistance to students and researchers.

Research Interests

I am interested in the use of statistical and mathematical tools to better understand epidemiological and ecological processes, with a particular view towards applying these to improve surveillance of both invasive pathogens/pests and endemic pathogens/parasites. During my PhD, I developed approaches for improving the amount of information which could be obtained from simple diagnostic tests in order to better estimate the level of infection of dogs with Echinococcus tapeworms in endemic areas. This is of particular importance for assessing the risk of human infection and for evaluating the effect of control schemes, and could also assist in the development and parameterisation of mathematical models of transmission, which I also worked on during my PhD.

My current work focusses on the issue of pathogen spread into new areas, which is an increasingly common problem due to global trade and travel, climate change, and land management issues (such as urbanisation and agricultural intensification). I am investigating how to best apply different diagnostic tests and surveillance approaches in order to maximise the probability of detecting these invasive pathogens at an early stage (at which point control measures to remove them may still be effective).

This requires the use of mathematical approaches to both better understand initial pathogen spread, and to simulate surveillance approaches in order to detect invasion early on. I am particularly interested in vector-borne pathogens, including Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (associated with citrus greening) and Xylella fastidiosa (associated with citrus variegated chlorosis and olive quick decline syndrome), and am currently working on improving surveillance for Xylella fastidiosa in Europe.

Qualifications and Memberships

Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (2005-)

Member of the John Snow Society (2008-)

Member of the Luxuriant Facial Hair Club for Scientists (2011-)

PhD in Parasite Ecology/Epidemiology, University of Salford (2015)

MSc, Veterinary Epidemiology, Royal Veterinary College (2009)

BVSc, University of Liverpool (2005)

BSc(hons) Veterinary Pathology, Royal Veterinary College (2003)

Publications

Alexander Mastin, Frank van den Bosch, Timothy R Gottwald, Vasthi Alonso Chavez, Stephen R Parnell. A method of determining where to target surveillance efforts in heterogeneous epidemiological systems (2017). PLOS Computational Biology, 13(8): e1005712.

Freya van Kesteren, Alexander Mastin, Paul R Torgerson, Bermet Mytynova, Philip S Craig. Evaluation of the impact of two years of a dosing intervention on canine echinococcosis in the Alay Valley, Kyrgyzstan (2017). Parasitology, 144(10):1328-1337

Jackie M Cardwell, Steven van Winden, Wendy Beauvais, Alexander Mastin, William A de Glanville, Joanne Hardstaff, Richard E Booth, John Fishwick, Dirk U Pfeiffer. Assessing the impact of tailored biosecurity advice on farmer behaviour and pathogen presence in beef herds in England and Wales (2016). Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 135:9-16

Qian Wang, Wen-Jie Yu, Bo Zhong, Jing-Ye Shang, Liang Huang, Alexander Mastin,  Renqingpengcuo,  Yan Huang, Guang-Jia Zhang, Wei He, Patrick Giraudoux, Wei-Ping Wu,  Philip S Craig. Seasonal pattern of Echinococcus re-infection in owned dogs in Tibetan communities of Sichuan, China and its implications for control (2016). Infectious Diseases of Poverty 5(1):60

Alexander Mastin, Freya van Kesteren, Paul R. Torgerson, Iskender Ziadinov, Bermet Mytynova, Michael T. Rogan, Talgat Tursunov, Philip S. Craig. 2015. Risk factors for Echinococcus coproantigen positivity in dogs from the Alay valley, Kyrgyzstan. Journal of Helminthology 89(6):655-663. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022149X15000590

Philip S. Craig, Alexander Mastin, Freya van Kesteren, Belgees Boufana. Echinococcus granulosus: epidemiology and state-of-the-art of diagnostics in animals. 2015. Veterinary Parasitology 213(3-4):132-148. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2015.07.028

Rebecca Rushworth, Belgees Boufana, Jessica Hall, Vincent Brannan, Alexander Mastin, Richard Birtles, Philip S. Craig, Michael T Rogan. Rodentolepis straminea in an urban population of Apodemus sylvaticus in the UK. 2015. Journal of Helminthology 1-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022149X15000632

Freya van Kesterena, Xinwei Qi, Jiang Tao, Xiaohui Feng, Alexander Mastin, Philip S. Craig, Dominique A. Vuitton, Xinyu Duan, Xiangdong Chu, Jinlong Zhu and Wen Hao. 2015. Independent evaluation of a canine echinococcosis control programme in Hobukesar County, Xinjiang, China. Acta Tropica 1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2015.01.009 

Freya van Kesteren, Katarzyna J. Piggott, Tavares Bengui, Sirri B. Kubri, Alexander Mastin, Claudio Sillero-Zubiri, Monique Paris, Robert P. Millar, David W. Macdonald, Fekadu Shiferaw and Philip S. Craig. 2015. Helminth parasites in the endangered Ethiopian wolf, Canis simensis. Journal of Helminthology 89(4):487-495. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022149X14000534

Freya van Kesteren, Alexander Mastin, Bermet Mytynova, Iskender Ziadinov, Belgees Boufana, Paul R Torgerson, Michael T Rogan, Philip S Craig. 2013. Dog ownership, dog behavior and transmission of Echinococcus spp in the Alay Valley, southern Kyrgyzstan. Parasitology 140(13):1674-1684. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182013001182

Pablo Alarcon, Martina Velasova, Alexander Mastin, Amanda Nevel, Katharina D.C. Stärk, Barbara Wieland. 2011. Farm level risk factors associated with severity of post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 101 (3-4) 182-191. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.06.001

Alexander Mastin, Arjen Brouwer, Mark Fox, Philip Craig, Javier Guitián, WaiSan Li, Kim Stevens. 2011. Spatial and temporal investigation of Echinococcus granulosus coproantigen prevalence in farm dogs in South Powys, Wales. Veterinary Parasitology 178 (1-2) 100-107. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2010.11.049

Alexander Mastin, Pablo Alarcon, Dirk Pfeiffer, James Wood, Susanna Williamson, Ian Brown, COSI Consortium, and Barbara Wieland. 2011. Prevalence and risk factors for swine influenza virus infection in the English pig population. PLoS Currents: Influenza February 11; 3: RRN1209. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/currents.RRN1209