Anders Johansson's research group works with infection epidemiology - to track infection and understand how bacteria and viruses are spread.
Bacteria and viruses spread between people via several different routes of infection, they are most often spread unnoticed, and most bacteria and viruses are not harmful to human health. In some cases, bacteria or virus cause infections. Infectious viruses can also spread so explosively that many people become infected in a short time. This is called an outbreak of infection or an epidemic.
Anders Johansson’s research group works with infection epidemiology, which entails tracing infection and understanding how bacteria and viruses spread between persons and from the surrounding environment to humans. Infection epidemiology includes understanding the factors that increase and decrease the risk of infection, such as the importance of human behaviour and changes in environmental factors. The objective of the research is to reduce the risk of infectious diseases, both out in society and to patients in hospitals.
Knowledge from the research must thus be usable to prevent socially contracted and healthcare-related infections. One of the infections being studied is the disease tularemia, which is caused by the aggressive bacterium Francisella tularensis, which is spread to humans from nature. Outbreaks of tularemia are seen during summer and autumn. Other examples are healthcare-associated infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are spread in hospitals, such as infections caused by resistant staphylococci or resistant intestinal bacteria.
The picture describes how the disease tularemia has spread across Europe from east to west 1947-2014.
Infection epidemiology has developed strongly in recent years with the help of technological developments that have made it possible to trace, with high resolution, the spread of bacteria and viruses between humans and from the environment to humans. The technology makes it possible to map in detail the hereditary material of bacteria and viruses using whole-genome sequencing, so that transmission routes to and from hundreds of people can be monitored during an outbreak of infection. The research is also facilitated by technological developments in the fields of bioinformatics and artificial intelligence. Bioinformatics involves computer-driven handling of large volumes of biological and health data.
Artificial intelligence is used in research for transfer of analytical data from humans to computers. One example is that, in collaboration with health professionals and researchers who are computer scientists and engineers, we develop IT tools that automatically detect when infections occur in patients who are being treated in hospital. This is done by analysing large data volumes in case notes and laboratory systems. We will also be able to provide an warning in advance, so that infection can be prevented in a given patient. The new IT tools are adapted to the healthcare work so that the provided decision-making support is intuitive.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also entered into close collaboration with researchers in municipal elderly care and commenced research on the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the elderly care sector in Sweden, immunity after vaccination and how outbreaks of infection can be detected more quickly in the future.