Leishmaniasis Risk Determinants – assessing environmental and ecological factors associated with sand fly vector occurrence

Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) also known as Kala-Azar, is a public health problem in the eastern Africa region, affecting Kenya, Ugandan, Sudan and other countries in the horn of Africa. In Kenya, the disease is found mainly in arid and semi-arid regions, and is endemic in the Rift Valley and eastern provinces. The project seeks to describe the density, distribution and diversities of sand flies, parasite infection rate, and correlate these with environmental variables such as rainfall, vegetation and soil type. This will enable mapping of the vector hot spots, correlated with environmental variables and human demographic data (such as settlements, and livestock migration routes) in order to generate predictive maps that can provide important information on VL risk and occurrence, and hence contribute to disease control strategies. Control of sand flies remains a priority as they pose a significant public health threat in many parts of the world, transmitting the agents of several zoonotic diseases to humans. In Kenya, entomological research has mostly dwelt on the composition and distribution of sand flies and their blood feeding habits in relation to Leishmania transmission.  However, surveillance and control of sand flies remain poor as control is often a by-product of anti-malarial control using insecticide based approaches. This project will contribute knowledge of environmental factors that are associated with sandfly, and disease occurrence to decisions related to vector control and case management of VL infections.