Dr Anna Molesworth

Senior Epidemiologist

Background

I am an epidemiologist by training, with an interest in communicable disease epidemiology and control. Before joining the University of Edinburgh, I worked as a clinical scientist in the UK, first with the (then) Public Health Laboratory Service working on surveillance of prevalent diagnosed cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in England and Wales and later with the Health Protection Agency on key public health aspects of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). I have also worked in West Africa and Malawi with the Liverpool (meningitis) and London (HIV, leprosy) Schools of tropical medicine respectively, as part of their overseas research programmes. In 2010, I returned from Malawi to the UK to join the UK National CJD Research & Surveillance Unit, Edinburgh as the Unit’s senior epidemiologist. My current roles are in Unit management, CJD surveillance and associated enhanced surveillance and associated research projects.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine: Epidemic meningitis in Africa and its association with the environment
  • Master of Science, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Communicable Disease Epidemiology
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge: Archaeology and Anthropology

Research summary

CJD is a very rare disease affecting the brain and nervous system. It is one of a group of diseases called prion diseases that exist in different forms, all of which are currently untreatable and ultimately fatal.

Most cases of CJD have no known cause. However some cases may result from person to person spread via blood transfusion or treatment with certain plasma or hormone products, or certain types of surgery.

Enhanced epidemiological surveillance and public health investigations help us understand how big the risk of CJD spreading by medical treatment is, and how we might reduce this risk.

Research aims and areas of interest

  • Enhanced CJD surveillance in the older population: dementia-based clinical and pathological investigation in the local community and banked brain donations.
  • Provision of advice and support to local health protection teams to prevent the potential spread of CJD in healthcare settings; public health referral, review and investigation of local cases.
  • The study of possible iatrogenic transmission of CJD/vCJD through the identification and investigation of surgical and other medical associations between cases, including medical look-back and case-control studies.
  • Enhanced surveillance of “at risk” patient groups for evidence of CJD/vCJD: case detection, review and post-mortem investigation.
  • Surveillance of potential occupational exposure to CJD/vCJD: case review and follow-up for healthcare and laboratory workers

Collaborators

  • Public Health England
  • Health Protection Scotland

Sources of funding

Enhanced epidemiological surveillance and public health activities are funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme and by the Scottish Government Health Department, as part of the core NCJDRSU grant.

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