skip to primary navigationskip to content

Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Dr Alison Jane Peel

Dr Alison Jane Peel

Post Doctoral Researcher

Department of Veterinary Medicine
University of Cambridge
Madingley Road

Cambridge , Cambridgeshire CB3 0ES


I completed my veterinary degree at the University of Sydney in 2003, with an additional honours year research degree investigating non-invasive markers of stress in captive western lowland gorillas. After a few years in mixed- and small- animal practice in Australia and the UK, I completed a MSc in Wild Animal Health at the Institute of Zoology, London and the Royal Veterinary College.  Following this, I moved to Department of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Cambridge, where I undertook my PhD research between 2008-2012. This was a part of a larger collaborative project between Prof James Wood at Cambridge and Prof Andrew Cunningham at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London.

Departments and Institutes

Veterinary Medicine:
Post Doctoral Researcher

Research Interests

My interests lie in the ecology of emerging diseases in wildlife, including how changing wildlife population dynamics, distributions and the environment might drive disease emergence.

My recently completed PhD research investigated the ways in which the structure and dynamics of fruit bat populations across Africa may affect the viral transmission dynamics within them.

The straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, is a reservoir for potentially-zoonotic henipaviruses and Lagos bat virus (LBV) in continental Africa, yet little is known about the connectivity between populations, and therefore whether findings from studies based in Ghana can be extrapolated across the species’ continental range. I undertook serological analyses on samples from 12 populations of E. helvum bats across its continental and offshore-island range, and used a combination of mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite markers to describe its genetic metapopulation structure. The findings have implications for human public health, conservation and theories on viral persistence mechanisms within wildlife populations.

I was supervised for my PhD by James Wood , Andrew Cunningham and David Sargan, and also worked closely with David Hayman , Kate Baker , Alexandra Kamins , Olivier Restif , Tony Fooks and Stephen Rossiter.

My current research involves using mathematical models to explore viral persistence mechanisms within wildlife populations with seasonal birth pulses. When considering viruses that result in an acute and immunising infection within their hosts, populations below a ‘critical community size’ are expected to be too small to allow viral persistence. However, results from my PhD research in a small and isolated population of fruit bats in the Gulf of Guinea, challenge current assumptions on the acute and immunising nature of henipavirus and LBV infections in fruit bats, and the requirement for large metapopulations for persistence. This isolated island provide a valuable natural setting to study disentangle these assumptions. I will be using a model-guided fieldwork approach to test various hypotheses within a mathematical model framework, and use the results to guide the most appropriate field studies. For this research, I am working closely with Olivier Restif and in collaboration with members of the RAPIDD programme.


  • Ecology
  • Genetics
  • Epidemiology
  • Veterinary Science
  • Public Health
  • Infection
  • Cross-species transmission
  • Virology
  • Dynamics


  • Henipavirus
  • Rabies
  • RNA virus
  • Zoonoses
  • Emerging viral diseases


  • Cross-sectional and cohort studies
  • Mathematical modelling

Key Publications

  1. Peel, A.J., Baker, K.S., Crameri, G., Barr, J.A., Hayman, D.T.S., Wright, E., Broder, C.C., Fernández-Loras, A., Fooks, A.R., Wang, L.F, Cunningham, A.A., Wood, J.L.N. (2012) Henipavirus Neutralising Antibodies in an Isolated Island Population of African Fruit Bats. PLoS ONE, 7, e30346.
  2. Peel, A.J, Hartley, M, Cunningham, A.A. (2012) Qualitative risk analysis of introducing Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis to the United Kingdom through the importation of live amphibians. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 98, 95–112.
  3. Billeter, S. A., Hayman, D. T. S., Peel, A. J., Baker, K., Wood, J. L. N., Cunningham, A. A., Suu-Ire, R., Dittmar, K. & Kosoy, M. Y. (2012) Bartonella species in bat flies (Diptera: Nycteribiidae) from western Africa. Parasitology, 139, 324–329.
  4. Peel, A.J, Rossiter, S.J., Wood, J.L.N, Cunningham, A.A, Sargan, D.R. (2010). Characterization of microsatellite loci in the straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum (Pteropodidae). Conservation Genetic Resources 2: 279-282.
  5. Peel, A.J, Bouts, T, Flach, E, Rivers, S, and Routh, A. (2009) Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (Equine Cushing's Disease) in an Onager (Equus hemionus onager). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 40 (4) 773-780.
  6. Peel, A.J., Vogelnest, L, Finnigan, M, Grossfeldt, L, O’Brien, J. (2005). Non-Invasive Fecal Hormone Analysis and Behavioral Observations for Monitoring Stress Responses in Captive Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Zoo Biology 24(5): 431-445.

In Press:

Wood, JLN, Leach, M, Waldman, L, MacGregor, H, Fooks, AR, Jones, K, Restif, O, Dechmann, D, Hayman, DTS, Baker, KS, Peel, AJ, Kamins, AO, Fahr, J, Ntiamoa-Baidu, Y, Suu-Ire, R, Breiman, RF, Epstein, JH, Field, HE & Cunningham, AA. A framework for the study of zoonotic disease emergence and its drivers: spillover of bat pathogens as a case study. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological sciences.

Hayman, DTS, Bowen, R, Cryan, P, McCracken, G, O'Shea, T, Peel, AJ, Turmelle, A, Webb, C, Wood, JLN. Ecology of zoonotic infectious diseases in bats: current knowledge and future directions. Zoonoses and Public Health.

Baker, KS, Marsh, GA, Todd, S, Crameri, G, Barr, J, Kamins, AO, Peel, AJ, Yu, M, Hayman, DTS, Nagjm, B, Mtove, G, Amos, B, Reyburn, H, Nyarko, EO, Suu-Ire, R, Murcia, PR, Cunningham, AA, Wood, JLN & Wang, LF. Novel zoonotic paramyxoviruses from the African straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum. Journal of Virology.

Ossa, G, Kramer-Schadt, S, Peel, AJ, Scharf, A, Voigt, CC. The movement ecology of the straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, in sub-Saharan Africa assessed by stable isotopes. PLoS ONE