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Vector-borne diseases account for an estimated 17% of infectious diseases and cause more than 1 million deaths annually. RNA viruses, transmitted by blood-feeding arthropods (arboviruses), pose a particularly high risk as they can easily spread to new geographic regions where they may cause serious epidemics in naïve populations, such as by Zika-, chikungunya-, dengue- and Rift Valley fever viruses. Despite this high relevance, little is known about enzootic maintenance cycles and prevalence even for medically important arboviruses in the African countries of origin. Moreover, research of transmission cycles has mainly been focused on the role of mosquitoes as arboviral vectors. Other blood-feeding arthropods, such as ticks, biting midges and sandflies, have received considerable less attention. Relevant agents like Schmallenberg virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and phleboviruses are transmitted by these vectors.
Situated at one of the most renowned African entomology institutes, this collaborative project aims at a comprehensive understanding of key arboviral diseases in Kenya, including the virus sources, the infection-related impacts on humans, as well as the societal conditions and consequences of arbovirus disease. A strong focus in all stages of research will be on training and capacity building for future independent work in an African research environment. The research will have a local and exemplary focus to enable efficient training and technology transfer, but will provide important outcomes due to the setting of the work in one of the key seeding regions of arbovirus diseases globally.
The key objectives are (i) to study the disease ecology of relevant arboviruses in blood-feeding vectors, livestock and peri-domestic wildlife, (ii) to determine the impact of arboviral disease on human health and local society, involving complementary approaches from the fields of laboratory-based epidemiology and social sciences, and (iii) to provide training, education, and well-targeted capacity building in disease ecology, veterinary medicine and agro-social sciences, as well as virology.
The generated data will promote the local control of key arboviral diseases and thereby limit the risk of spread of indigenous arboviruses to new geographic regions.
In cooperation with Prof. Christian Borgemeister (Centre for Development Research, Bonn), Prof. Rosemary Sang (Kenya Medical Research Institute and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi, Kenya), Prof. Baldwyn Torto, Dr. David Tchouassi (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi, Kenya)
Funded by the DFG (Junglen JU 2857/9-1)