Going beyond the scope of the UGPN Project: Optimize control interventions for Visceral Leishmaniasis


Objectives and activities

The goal of this project is to bring together experts, from three UGPN partner institutions, in the fields of epidemiology, disease spread and ecology, machine learning, mathematical models and disease surveillance strategies. The team plans to work together to perform preliminary analysis and find additional funding to:

1) Elucidate the mechanisms associated with the geographic distribution of VL;

2) Assess which data are needed to understand the role of hosts and asymptomatic cases in achieving the global goals to control global burden by 2030,

3) Integrate fine-scale satellite-derived landscape information (vegetation phenology, soil humidity, nighttime-light, wind direction, land surface temperature, distance to roads, and distance to water) into the operationalization of the control programme; and

4) Advice Ministry of Health – RABIES, extended work to a different zoonotic neglected tropical disease that had significant interest in the region and for the ministry.

The trilateral collaboration initially focused on a specific area of work, but it expanded to include other shared interests, such as their work on livestock diseases. The UGPN provided valuable support for their collaborative efforts, although the paper they published was not related to their work on Visceral Leishmaniasis. Instead, it was a result of their continued collaboration, which focused on various topics, including the integrated modeling of bat-rabies spillover risks. This project allowed them to exchange research and ideas within a One Health context that spanned multiple disease systems.

This project served as a great opportunity to jump-start collaboration across a number of topics. Overall, this project has had great impact, with submission of one major grant (worth U$1M) to USDA, as well as facilitated the writing of a number of manuscripts (see above). The USDA grant scored as “high priority” and will be resubmitted in fall 2022. We also managed important engagement with Ministry of Health in Brazil, particularly for the state of São Paulo.

Pig diseases, such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), have impacts beyond the swine industry, as they can also have wider economic and public health implications. The global demand for pork and pork products is high, and outbreaks of such diseases can disrupt the supply chain and increase prices for consumers, as well as significant cost to producers. In the work presented here we developed a mathematical model that can evaluate the role of nine different contact routes between farms, such as pig movements or feed transport, in the transmission of PEDv. Our work suggested that, depending on the farm type, most transmission events can be due to close proximity between farms, or animal and feed movements.

Photo Credit: NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.