Neglected Tropical Diseases affect approximately 2.7 billion people worldwide and are widely distributed, especially among the tropics. The dispersal and distribution of the pathogens that cause NTDs are strongly influenced by the spatial complexity of their physical and biotic environment. Thus, spatial analyses of abiotic and biotic variables can serve to accurately predict the emergence, occurrence, and spread of disease.
Trypanosoma cruzi and the local vector species – Rhodnius ecuadoriensis
In this project we focus on Chagas disease in an area of disease transmission in Southern Ecuador and Northern Peru. Chagas disease is caused by the single-celled kinetoplastid Trypanosoma cruzi, and in our study region the local insect vector species is Rhodnius ecuadoriensis. Our aim is to establish the population genetic/genomic diversity of both vector and parasite across the study region by high resolution (genome scale) genotyping. To evaluate the interconnectivity of different vector and parasite populations, and to predict potential dispersal routes or barriers to geneflow, we adopt a landscape genetics approach.
Our aim is to define what environmental factors and what spatial scales are relevant in defining parasite and vector population distribution. Such descriptions of diversity are key to measuring and predicting dispersal. Our evaluation of barriers to gene flow will feed directly into a rationale for effective local disease control.