Margaux MI Meslé

Commercial airline travel and the international spread of emerging infectious diseases

Personal Statement:

Margaux joined the HPRU EZI in the summer of 2015 as an infectious disease biologist with a keen interest in their international movements and impact on populations. This project has also allowed her to engage in public engagement events to teach school children about epidemiology and public health.


After completing a Master’s degree from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Margaux has spent some time volunteering for the British Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders in London and Edinburgh, through the Missing Maps project ( She is also a keen archer, having competed at national and international competitions.



Margaux Mesle

Lay Summary:

Airline passengers travel in greater numbers (1.186 billion international arrivals in 2015) and across greater distances, making them more likely to travel while potentially unknowingly infected and before feeling ill. Some outbreaks have resulted from the direct importation of disease-causing organisms (Cholera in Haiti, 2010), sometimes developing into pandemics by affecting numerous countries (2016 Zika outbreak.) The aims of this thesis were to understand the movement of airline passengers from available data and whether this could be used to develop useful and accurate tools to predict the international spread of human infectious diseases.

A review of the literature first analysed what airline data was most often used by research groups and how well this data was reported and described. The airline data was then analysed and compared against independent and freely available datasets. By knowing the number of passengers returning to the UK infected with chikungunya and dengue, we were able to estimate in which countries UK travellers had a different risk of infection than that of the local populations. Finally, we analysed each country’s level of healthcare provision and airline connectivity to other countries to understand the potential development of a pandemic.

We determined that commercial airline data was most often used by researchers and sources were not often reported in a manner that allowed others to reproduce their work. It was determined that the airline data used here (sold as highly accurate airline data) had flaws, including containing railway stations. Specific countries were highlighted as potentially riskiest for the global community because of their average level of healthcare and relatively good airline connectivity to other countries.


  • Rob Christley – NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, University of Liverpool
  • Jonathan Read - NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, University of Lancaster
  • Ian Hall - School of Mathematics, The University of Manchester, Manchester
  • Steve Leach - Emergency Response Department, Science & Technology, Public Health England
  • Roberto Vivancos – Field Epidemiology Service, Public Health England & NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, University of Liverpool


Walters CE, Meslé MMI and Hall IM (2018) Modelling the global spread of diseases: a review of current practice and capabilities. Epidemics.

Bartley D, Meslé M, Donegan H, Devin L and Morrison A (2016). Phenotypic assessment of the ovicidal activity of monepantel and monepantel sulfone on gastro-intestinal nematode eggs. Veterinary Parasitology, 220, 87-92.