Modelling visceral leishmaniasis in Brazil

This project was in collaboration with Elizabeth Buckingham-Jeffery (The University of Manchester), Orin Courtenay, Erin Dilger (both School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick) and Samik Datta (NIWA, New Zealand).

Zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a fatal vector-borne disease of canids and humans transmitted between hosts by Leishmania infantum-infected female Phlebotomine sandflies. VL is endemic in the domestic dog population in many parts of Brazil, and the number of human VL cases has steadily risen in the country throughout the last 30 years.

With domestic dogs being a principal reservoir host of VL, a primary focus of research efforts has been to understand transmission dynamics among dogs, with the intention being that limiting prevalence in this reservoir will result in a reduced risk of infection for the human population. One way this can be achieved is through the use of mathematical models.

We have developed a stochastic, spatial, individual-based mechanistic model of the dynamics of VL infection in domestic dogs. The model framework has been applied to a rural Brazilian village setting with parameter values informed by fieldwork and laboratory data. Prospectively, the modelling framework provides a foundation that can be expanded to explore spatial patterns of zoonotic VL infection in humans and assess spatially-targeted interventions.

Peer-reviewed publications: