Vectors of Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are ailments that can be transmitted between animals to humans. These diseases can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi. They are transmitted though contact (e.g. with fluids such as blood, saliva and urine); through food, or through the bite of an infected arthropod vector, often either ticks or mosquitoes.

Most zoonotic diseases fall under the category of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Also known as the ‘diseases of the poor’, NTDs are a group of infectious diseases that affect populations living in low-income areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas, with serious consequences on public health.

The emergence of new diseases, and re-emergence of old ones has risen in recent decades because of human related factors such as intensified agriculture, ease of movement of people, changing climatic patterns among others. It is estimated that ~60% of all pathogens of public health significance have an animal origin, making zoonoses rather more common than is often imagined.

icipe’s approach to control of zoonotic diseases is based on gaining a comprehensive understanding of the ecology and physiology of the vectors, in order to develop approaches that interrupt transmission or interfere with vector survival. This strategy includes studies of vector ecology and sectorial capacity, genetics and genomics, response to host odours in terms of attraction and repellency. icipe is also interested in vector diversity, systematics and distribution of ticks and mosquitoes, the principal vectors of zoonotic pathogens.