Research Expertise and Interest

Infectious disease dynamics, methodological issues in infectious disease surveillance, infectious diseases, infectious disease epidemiology, global environmental change, climate change, global change, urbanization, mathematical modeling, computational modeling

Research Description

An engineer by training, Prof. Justin Remais’ research uses statistical, mathematical, and computational approaches to study the impact of environmental change on the dynamics of infectious disease transmission. He leads a cluster of studies examining the spread of West Nile virus, TB, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, coccidioidomycosis, and enteric infections as they respond to rapid urbanization, industrialization, migration, changes in water resources, and a changing and more variable climate, among other factors. His research group has been continuously funded by NIH/NSF since 2006 to undertake collaborative research with partners in California, China, Ecuador and Senegal that address fundamental questions regarding how infectious diseases spread, and what can be done to interrupt their transmission. He has led (as PI or co-PI) >$13 million in extramural research projects since being appointed to the Berkeley faculty. He serves as Deputy Editor of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and Academic Editor of PLoS Global Public Health.

Prof. Remais led a team that published seminal work in The Lancet on the health consequences—both adverse and beneficial—of rapid urbanization in China, and its interaction with population aging and other demographic trends. In other work, his group was the first to show that famine induces long-term and intergenerational effects on infectious disease transmission (PNAS), and he led the first international research effort to estimate the burden of water, sanitation and hygiene-attributable infectious diseases across China in the presence of a changing climate (Nature Climate Change). He is presently leading NSF- and NIH-funded research investigating COVID-19 transmission dynamics within school settings; how hydrodynamics and social dynamics interact to influence the transmission of waterborne pathogens in Ecuador and China; and how agrochemical use influences the transmission of parasitic diseases in West Africa. His group's other major NIH-funded research is developing of new approaches for simulating and optimizing surveillance networks to detect existing and emerging infectious diseases under changing epidemiological and environmental conditions, with a focus on diarrheal diseases, malaria, dengue, leptospirosis, TB, Japanese encephalitis, schistosomiasis and HFMD. His research projects in California include an investigation of the changing epidemiology of West Nile virus in the state, and research on the spread of coccidioidomycosis through drought and heavy rainfall cycles. Prof. Remais received his MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering and PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley.



In the News

Safe Bay Area school reopenings may be possible with stringent social-distancing measures and reductions in community transmission

As the fall school semester is nearly underway, discussions are intensifying on whether, and how, to reopen schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A new study, led by researchers at UC Berkeley, finds that in-person classes in the Bay Area may be possible for elementary schools, but only if schools can successfully limit contact between students from different classes. In contrast, remote learning may be the only safe option for middle and high schools until community transmission is dramatically lowered.

Pesticides speed the spread of deadly waterborne pathogens

Widespread use of pesticides and other agrochemicals can speed the transmission of the debilitating disease schistosomiasis, while also upsetting the ecological balances in aquatic environments that prevent infections, finds a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

How fat prawns can save lives

Before bite-sized crustaceans like crayfish, shrimp and prawns land on our dinner plates, they first have to get fat themselves — and it turns out they relish the freshwater snails that transmit the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, the second most devastating parasitic disease worldwide, after malaria.

When it comes to climate change, don’t forget the microbes

Scientists are rightly focused on anticipating and preventing the major impacts that climate change will have on humans, plants and animals. But they shouldn’t forget the effect on Earth’s microbes, on which everything else depends, warns a group of 33 biologists from around the globe.

Featured in the Media

Please note: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of UC Berkeley.
August 25, 2020
UC Berkeley associate professor of Public Health, Justin Remais, and Public Health graduate student, Jennifer Head, discuss their examination of how school closures and reopenings can affect the spread of COVID-19. Based on computer modeling, they found that closing elementary schools averted 2,000 cases, compared with more than 8,000 cases prevented by closing high schools.
July 20, 2020
Katie Camero
New research shows that pesticides sprayed over agricultural lands can speed the spread of a debilitating, parasitic disease second only to malaria in terms of its impact on global health. Schistosomiasis, also known as "snail fever," affects more than 200 million people worldwide and comes from worms that live inside freshwater snails. "Environmental pollutants can increase our exposure and susceptibility to infectious diseases," says senior author of the study Justin Remais, chair of the division of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. "From dioxins decreasing resistance to influenza virus, to air pollutants increasing COVID-19 mortality, to arsenic impacting lower respiratory tract and enteric infections - research has shown that reducing pollution is an important way to protect populations from infectious diseases." For more on this, see our press release at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in several sources, including ConsumerAffairs, Science Daily, Outbreak News, and Science Magazine.
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