Research to reduce the transmission of dengue and Chagas disease
Towards improved Chagas and dengue disease control through innovative ecosystem management and community-directed interventions: an eco-bio-social research programme on Chagas and dengue disease control in Latin America.
This research is investigating how communities and health services can work together to develop healthy solutions that often reduce the use of insecticides and improve overall housing conditions.
Implemented by TDR in partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the work is being conducted in 7 Latin American countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Uruguay. Below are reports from some of the field sites.
Preventing dengue in Uruguay
Uruguay is one of the few countries in Latin America that does not have dengue, but its proximity to neighboring Brazil and Argentina where the disease is prevalent puts it at risk. However, a community approach to reducing breeding among the dengue-carrying mosquitoes is starting to pay off.
Dengue in Brazil
Researchers at the Universidade Estadual do Ceara in Fortaleza, Brazil are investigating new community and environmental approaches to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes that can carry dengue. Early results suggest that covering the outside containers that store a family's water supply may be more effective than using insecticides to kill the mosquito larvae.
Dengue research in Colombia
The city of Girardot, located on the banks of the Magdalene River in Colombia, is an important summer vacation spot. The region’s tropical climate draws not only tourists but also provides the perfect conditions for the reproduction of the Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the dengue virus that can be deadly.
Chagas disease in Bolivia
In Palmarito, Bolivia, a simple farming lifestyle has not changed much in hundreds of years. Water is still collected and carried by hand, there is no electricity, and the homes are simple mud hut structures. People depend on chickens and pigs for food, and they keep them close. But this lifestyle is in danger from a small bug called a triatomine, or “el timbucu” as the locals call it, which transmits a parasite to animals and people. It hides in the cracks of mud walls, under mattresses and in the fur of animals.
Dr Johannes Sommerfeld, TDR scientist and research manager
Dengue is a major public health problem throughout Latin America, particularly in cities. At the same time, Chagas disease is persisting and re-emerging in different rural ecological zones of the continent, notably in the Northern Cone of Latin America and Central America. Environmental management is particularly important for controlling these diseases.
This TDR project is based on IDRC’s ecohealth approach and combines research on the vectors that carry the diseases with multi-stakeholder engagement. We call this eco-bio-social research, and the approach has provided evidence that a new environmental and community approach can in fact not only reduce vector densities but empower communities to tackle the social and environmental determinants that render them at risk for vector-borne diseases.
We have been pleased to work with the Ecosystem and Human Health Program of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to develop and implement this extensive multi-country project, and with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), who are helping to transition the research evidence into policy and practice.