Published: 27 March 2014

PhD students to spread ‘infection’ among festival visitors

Crowd at festival

PhD students in the Institute of Integrative Biology are using a mobile phone app to mimic the spread of an infection amongst people attending the Threshold festival in the city’s Baltic Triangle (28-30 March 2014).

The Patient Zero project has been designed by three PhD students at the University of Liverpool to help them gain a better understanding of how an epidemic can spread through human interaction.

Festival-goers will be able to download the free app which has features relating to the arts, music and theatre content of the event.  As they use the app, they can opt in to run an increasing chance of being ‘infected’ on the scientists’ database.

Periodically, the app will send anonymous location data which will be paired up with people in the same part of the site – leading to the disease spreading. This will also allow the scientists to construct and analyse the human contact network generated at the event, a vital tool for advancing predictions of infectious disease.

One of the students running the project, Bethany Levick, said: “Studying how populations interact and move around is now much easier thanks to apps and the web.  Festivals offer a good environment for studying people’s movements as they feature dense concentrations of people moving between stages and other parts of the site.”

The Patient Zero project will take place over all three days of the Threshold Festival featuring a mix of art, theatre and music, and this year organisers have also invited scientists to communicate their work to the 3,000 festival-goers.

The scientists are working alongside Science Grrl, an organisation set up in 2012 that aims to make science accessible irrespective of gender.

PhD student, Amanda Minter said: “With this database we will be able to build a picture of the network of individuals generated at the event.”

Her colleague, Cassandra Raby concluded: “Making these networks for human contacts is incredibly difficult, and the help provided by these participants in building this network with us could be invaluable for predicting and controlling future disease outbreaks.”

The study will take place at the Festival from 28 to 30 March 2014.

For more information on the project please visit http://www.projectpatientzero.tumblr.com/takepart

A video can also be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQoZgVs2rAA

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