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Birgitta Evengård

I came to Umeå University as professor of infectious disease in 2007 leaving a professorship of clinical parasitology at the Karolinska Institute. One reason for the transfer was an increasing recognition of the importance of climate change. Climate change will have a profound and rapid impact on the human biome. As climate change occurs at the fastest speed and also with the highest impact in the North this perspective is a rewarding one to study.

The human biome in the North includes the change in the flora and fauna, all transforming the pretexts for development of societies in the North. A holistic approach including collaboration with many scholars is necessary. In my last proposal as PI for a consortium of researchers the overall objective is to study the transformation of cold biomes. Such major ecosystems are termed as biomes into habitats suitable for disease vector and reservoir organisms. We intend to infer the potential pathways of disease migration, via studying the connectivity of transforming habitats to surrounding disease populations. Provided this information, we intend to estimate the associated risk for increased exposure to infectious disease in a holistic approach that contains elements at all possible scales of assessment. At the local scale, with all associated consequences, such elements include direct exposure of communities situated along migratory pathways, at the regional scale they include increasing risks for infected reindeer and game, and at the global scale they include risks like increasing world-pools of disease pathogens. For adaptation this knowledge is of uttermost importance. Thus, the objective is to improve understanding and modelling of regional changes in the landscape capacity of hosting infectious disease under warming in Arctic/boreal regions, with a focus on feedbacks between these changes and societal effects. At the side of societal response to altered exposure of infectious disease, collaboration with social sciences will occur. The funding was granted for 2016-2021 for a Nordic Center of Excellence, Clinf see www.clinf.org.

All through my career I have been interested in and studied parasites. One major study was to investigate the prevalence of toxoplasmosis in Sweden which results were used by health authorities in preventive actions as well as used by clinicians of different specialities (obstetrics, infectious diseases, transplantation surgeons, clinical microbiologists). I also improved diagnostics of the parasite, improving molecular techniques. Interactions between host and parasite was part of my PhD as studied in the disease caused by the helminth schistosomiasis, both in immigrants and in endemic areas. I initiated and chaired a studygroup in ESCMID on toxoplasmosis with European colleagues 2002-2007 when it during my leadership (-2012) was transformed into a studygroup for clinical parasitology where we worked with educational activities on the European level as well as improving quality assessments and providing platforms for basic and clinical researchers in the field. The current topic for research is genotyping of intestinal parasites improving laboratory methods to do molecular epidemiological surveys.

A major focus previously, during my years at the Karolinska Institute, was to investigate, in a holistic manner the cause of as well as clinical handling of patients with longterm fatigue. This resultated in a large number of papers and many years as boardmember of the International assocation of chronic fatigue syndrome/ME in the US. The collaboration included the Swedish twin registry, CDC Atlanta, Univ of Miami, Kobe Molecular laboratory and many experts from different disciplines as anthropologists, social scientists, psychologists as well as experts in the health sector.

A horisontal interest has been gender issues all through my career and I have worked both scientifically but also with decision-makers to improve gender equality in the working environment both in academia and in the health care sector. During four years I worked part-time for the Stockholm County Council heading the project Gender equality with a sustainable perspective producing results that brought us to presentations at the European commission in Bruxelles. This aspect is always integrated into all research coming from my desk.