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Department of Veterinary Medicine

Cambridge Veterinary School

Studying at Cambridge


Dr Olivier Restif

Dr Olivier Restif

> Alborada Lecturer in Epidemiology

> Royal Society University Research Fellow

> Director of Studies (NST Biology) for Robinson College

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Mathematical models for infectious diseases

Olivier Restif is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 764963


Subject groups/Research projects

Infection and Immunity:
Mathematical Biology:

Departments and Institutes

Cambridge Infectious Diseases:
The Royal Society:
University Research Fellow

Research Interests

I use mathematical models combined with experimental and field-based studies to investigate the dynamics of infectious diseases at all scales, from cells to ecosystems. My research falls into four main subjects:

A. Within-host dynamics of bacterial infections.
In collaboration with the Bacterial Infections Group, Mastroeni, Bryant, Maskell, Grant, Gog, McKinley and Dybowski, I have been developing an integrated, multi-disciplinary framework to quantify the dynamics of acute and systemic Salmonella enterica infection, since 2004. Innovative experimental techniques combined with sophisticated modelling techniques have enabled us to quantify the interactions between bacteria and the host's immune system with unrivalled resolution. Our latest work revealed striking differences between vaccine types in their abilities to control the growth and spread of S. enterica in vivo. Our next project will investigate the effects of different antimicrobials. Together with Richard Dybowski, we are developing new inference methods to improve data analysis.

As part of an MRC-funded collaborative grant led by Mark Holmes, we are investigating the within-host dynamics of antimicrobial resistance gene transfer in enteric bacterial communities.

With support from the IDEAS Research Collaboration Network, I have started a collaboration with Eric Harvill on the within-host dynamics of Bordetella bacteria in the respiratory tract.

In August 2015, I co-edited a Theme Issue of Philosophical Transactions B on within-host infection dynamics, with Andrea Graham.

  • Funding: BBSRC, MRC


B. Evolutionary ecology of immune defences.
This is a theoretical thread of research I have been investigating since 2000 (initially with my PhD supervisor Jacob Koella). I use adaptive dynamics (derived from game theory) to try and understand how ecological dynamics affect the selective pressures on immune defences in the presence of a pathogen. While this work is not related to any specific empirical system, it aims to address questions of general interest in evolutionary biology that could impact our understanding of host-pathogen interactions:


C. Microcosm studies of host-pathogen population dynamics.
During my PhD, I used the Ciliate protozoan Paramecium caudatum and its bacterial parasite Holospora undulata to investigate the relationship between virulence and modes of transmission. I then worked with Dave Lunn to develop a Bayesian framework that enabled us to fit complex mechanistic models to individual and population level data from these experiments (Lunn et al, 2013, PLoS One).

Since 2012, I have been working with Anaid Diaz on a new experimental system, using the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a host of various bacterial pathogens. We combine experimental and theoretical work to quantify the dynamics of infection at the levels of individual hosts and populations, paving the way for an integrative model to study the evolution of host-pathogen interactions. 

Funding: BBSRC




D. Model-Guided Fieldwork for Wildlife Infectious Diseases.
I have been collaborating with James Wood, Andrew Cunningham and Tony Fooks on a research programme on the ecology and epidemiology of zoonotic viruses in the African Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum). With the support of the RAPIDD programme, we have been working with Colleen Webb and other collaborators to develop a multi-disciplinary framework for model-guided field studies. In our latest study with Alison Peel, we used stochastic models to investigate the effects of seasonal birth pulses on the persistence of pathogens in wildlife populations.

  • News coverage: The importance of our work on African fruit bats has been highlighted by the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
  • Funding: CIDC, ZSL, AHVLA, Wellcome Trust, Gates Cambridge Trust, RAPIDD, RCUK.

Eidolon helvum(250)

Research Supervision

  • Post-docs
    • Michael Bateman (2015-2017)
    • Romain Garnier (2015-2017)
    • David Price (2015-2017)
    • Anaid Diaz (2012-2016)
    • Alison Peel (2012)
  • PhD students
    • Isam Mohd (2016-2018)
    • David Hayman (2005-2008)
    • Alexandra Kamins (2009-2012)
  • Master's students
    • Eric Mooring (2013-2014)
    • David Bradley (2014)
    • Lisanne Rens (2012)
    • Alice Wright (2011)


  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Bayesian Methods
  • Ecology
  • Mathematical modelling
  • Salmonella enterica
  • Host-Pathogen Interaction
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Evolution
  • Microbiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious disease dynamics
  • Bats
  • Zoonoses
  • Bacteriology
  • Disease Ecology
  • Evolutionary biology

Collaborators outside this directory

Key Publications

  • Dybowski R, Restif O, Goupy A, Maskell DJ, Mastroeni P, Grant AJ (2015). Single passage in mouse organs enhances the survival and spread of Salmonella enterica. Journal of The Royal Society Interface 12(113):20150702. Full text
  • Coward C, Restif O et al. (2014) The Effects of Vaccination and Immunity on Bacterial Infection Dynamics In Vivo. PLoS Pathogens, 10(9): e1004359, Full text 
  • AJ Peel, JRC Pulliam, AD Luis, RK Plowright, TJ O'Shea, DTS Hayman, JLN Wood, CT Webb, O Restif (2014) The effect of seasonal birth pulses on pathogen persistence in wild mammal populations. Proc R Soc B, 281:20132962. Full text 
  • Restif O (2013) An offer you cannot refuse: down‐regulation of immunity in response to a pathogen's retaliation threat. J Evol Biol 26:2021-2030. Full text
  • Restif O et al. (2012) Model‐guided fieldwork: practical guidelines for multidisciplinary research on wildlife ecological and epidemiological dynamics. Ecology Letters 15:1083. Full text
  • Restif O (2009) Evolutionary epidemiology 20 years on: Challenges and prospects. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 9 (1): 108-23. [PubMed]
  • Grant AJ, Restif O, McKinley TJ, Sheppard M, Maskell DJ, Mastroeni P (2008) Modelling within-host spatiotemporal dynamics of invasive bacterial disease. PLoS Biology 6:e74 [PubMed]
  • Restif O, Grenfell BT (2006) Integrating life history and cross-immunity into the evolutionary dynamics of pathogens. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series B 273:409-416 [PubMed]
  • Restif O, Koella JC (2004) Concurrent evolution of resistance and tolerance to pathogens. The American Naturalist 164:E90-E102 [PubMed]

> Google Scholar profile here