Boston University’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy & Research (CEID) Announces $25K Pilot Grant Awardees

An integral component of CEID’s mission is to share knowledge and training opportunities that improve societal resilience against emerging and epidemic infectious diseases threats worldwide. As part of that goal, in Fall 2021, we released an inaugural call for proposals for pilot grants in the amount of $25,000.  

After a peer reviewed selection process of this year’s slate of exceptional proposals, we are pleased to announce the two projects awarded these inaugural grants!  These projects demonstrate strength in research and a commitment to furthering CEID’s mission, with a respective focus on our core pillars of trust and innovation. Congratulations to all the researchers! 

Social Media Analysis of Misinformation and Vaccine Hesitancy in Three Middle-Income Countries 

Dr. Traci Hong, Dr. Derry Wijaya, Dr. Veronika J. Wirtz 

Misinformation fuels vaccine hesitancy across the world, but the mechanism by which misinformation inhibits vaccine uptake is largely under-studied, specifically in middle-income countries. The slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in middle-income countries presents fertile ground for misinformation to proliferate. Moreover, social media usage in middle-income countries is projected to grow whereas usage has plateaued in high-income countries. Political leaders as well as religious personalities play a critical role in health decision making and dissemination of health information. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when some religious personalities espouse views contrary to science, it can have significant consequences to the wellbeing of large segments of the population, but this has not been empirically demonstrated. These conditions present a unique opportunity to study the impact of social media misinformation from key influencers on vaccine hesitancy in middle-income countries.

This research project will develop a big data methodology to measure Twitter-based COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and related political- and religious-based COVID-19 vaccine misinformation for three middle-income countries: Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria. The researchers will also identify shared misinformation themes across the three foci countries, and use mediation analysis to test the hypothesis that vaccine hesitancy mediates the relationship between misinformation and vaccine uptake and other behaviors related to COVID-19. This research builds on CEID’s core pillar of trust. 

Modeling Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Outbreaks in Wastewater

Dr. Muhammad Zaman, Dr. David Hamer 

Wastewater (comprising industrial, hospital and agricultural wastewater or run-offs and domestic wastewater or sewage) systems are major reservoirs of multi-drug resistant bacterial populations that put the lives of vulnerable communities at risk. This is particularly of concern in low and middle income countries, and in urban informal settlements, where wastewater systems represent a leading driver of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The dynamics of AMR emergence in wastewater environments is currently not fully understood. Existing studies have only surveyed the presence of antibiotic resistant organisms, genes and antibiotic residue in wastewater environments; the evolution and causative drivers of antibiotic resistant infectious disease outbreaks remain unknown. This has been a challenge due to both the lack of quantitative studies and the fact that experimental studies that mimic the wastewater environment can be difficult with standard laboratory culture techniques.

The goal of this project is to develop a novel, integrated mathematical modeling and experimental approach that will serve as a rigorous, data-driven, robust and scalable method allowing for the simultaneous study of several bacterial and environmental factors. The researchers will focus on several informal urban settlements in Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Africa for data collection and optimization of our model. This work will lead to a model to be used as a surveillance tool which can not only shed light on the evolution of antibiotic resistance, but also inform specific interventions, including surveillance, regulations, wastewater treatment plans and targeted antibiotic stewardship programs. Furthermore, the researchers believe that the outcome of this work in the form of an experimentally- and field-validated mathematical model is readily customizable and scalable, and can therefore be adapted to study context-specific wastewater systems in varying geographies and socioeconomic environments. Closing this gap through quantitative modeling and analysis is critical to fundamentally understanding the drivers of AMR and creating effective interventions to prevent outbreaks of multi-drug resistant pathogens. This research builds on CEID’s core pillar of innovation. 

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