The overarching aim of the Vector Borne-Diseases & Pathogens group is to develop and apply innovative methods for surveillance and control of vector-borne diseases. The group is implementing R&D activities on the following topics: i) vector-borne pathogens: molecular epidemiology and phylogenetics, virulence, drug resistance and new drug targets, focusing on autochthonous and vulnerable populations (i.e. migrants and travellers); ii) arthropod vectors: bioecology, systematics, evolution, population biology and insecticide resistance; iii) vector competence and vector-pathogen interactions; iv) vector monitoring, including community-based approaches; v) helminthic infections and intermediate hosts; vi) rapid, point-of-care, multi-pathogen diagnostic tools; vii) human host susceptibility; viii) risk maps.
The VBD group is part of the ZIKAlliance consortium, initiated in October 2016 and funded by the Horizon 2020 Program. The consortium involves 53 partners from Europe, America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands to develop clinical, epidemiological, transmission and control studies of Zika. Also noteworthy are the vector competence studies of Aedes aegypti from Madeira to ZIKV. The high rates of viral infection observed suggest that the vector is competent in the transmission of this arbovirus, reinforcing the need for vector surveillance and control in the region.
Starting from the first isogenic strain of Schistosoma mansoni resistant to Praziquantel, studies have been developed to characterize resistance mechanisms to this drug for the treatment of schistosomiasis. The results of this CNPq project suggest the involvement of efflux pumps in resistance, opening the possibility of investigating combined therapies for treatment of resistant parasites. Morphological differences were observed between resistant and sensitive parasites, which may impact the transmission and pathology of the disease.
Within the framework of the EDENext Project, the seasonal dynamics of leishmaniasis vectors in the Mediterranean were analyzed. The study involved 8 countries with transmission of L. infantum, showing that, in southernmost latitudes, the no-risk transmission period is only 4 months. This study provides a basis for the establishment of sentinel areas for the monitoring of sand-flies.