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Biology and control of vector-borne infections in Europe

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Surveillance and control of vector-borne infections

A large European network set out to comprehend the emergence and spread of vector-borne infections (VBI). Their results have important health consequences.

Health

Recent outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases in Europe such as the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever or bluetongue highlight their impact on human and veterinary public health. Various demographic, environmental, social and economic factors as well as the limited availability of health facilities largely influence the transmission of VBI. Research into these infections is, therefore, a means of protecting and improving public health. Towards this goal, the EU-funded EDENEXT (Biology and control of vector-borne infections in Europe) project investigated the biological, ecological and epidemiological components of VBI emergence and transmission. Following the footsteps of its predecessor, the FP6 EDEN project, EDENEXT set out to develop state-of-the-art methods and tools to improve prevention, surveillance and control of vector populations. The consortium benefited from the datasets, experience, and capacity gained after the EDEN project to develop predictive models of vector-population dynamics, and disease transmission and spread. Researchers selected a number of vectors including rodents and insectivores as well as the arthropod ticks, mosquitoes, sand flies and biting midges for study. The focus was on diseases with insufficient epidemiological knowledge or control measures and on priority diseases for European public-health agencies. To understand and model the emergence and spread of VBD, the consortium invested in the identification of biological mechanisms and ecological processes that influence vector and host competence and capacity. For this purpose, they studied disease reservoirs and the natural cycle of infection for each host-vector-pathogen system. Since the massive use of insecticides is not acceptable, the consortium identified alternative means of vector control. The effectiveness of these approaches depended on the biology and ecology of the target vectors as well as on the availability of vaccine or efficient prophylactic treatments. To assess the efficacy of specific control methods scientists performed laboratory or field experiments. Taken together, the deliverables of the EDENEXT study provide the basis for preventing human or animal infection. Implementation of the study propositions in close collaboration with stakeholders and public-health agencies will result in more efficient preventive, surveillance and control programs. Beyond the deliverables, EDEN and EDENext allowed the publication of more than 600 scientific papers, and supported more than 130 PhD theses. Such achievements resulted in the renewal and reinforcement of a European network of medical entomologists and public-health specialists in the domain of vector-borne infections.

Keywords

Surveillance, vector-borne infection, tick, mosquito, sand-fly, biting midges, rodent, epidemiology, ecology, public health

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