Vmerge: Emerging viral vector-borne diseases
Vmerge aims to improve knowledge on emerging vector-borne viral diseases and in particular their potential for spreading throughout northern Africa and Europe, and enhance epidemiological surveillance strategies and tools for better disease detection.
The research will specifically target priority viral vector-borne diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes and Culicoides: 1) Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV, Bunyaviridae, Phlebovirus); 2) Orthobunyaviruses (Bunyaviridae, Orthobunyavirus, including Schmallenberg virus - SBV); and 3) Orbiviruses (Reoviridae, Orbivirus, including bluetongue viruses).
original and integrative multidisciplinary approaches
However, much broader information is expected to be gathered from field sampling of insect and host populations. Activities will be carried out through original and integrative multidisciplinary approaches.
- Study of virus and microbial communities by next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods in vectors collected in targeted ecosystems;
- Characterization of vector competence mechanisms in selected vector-virus couples;
- Development of vector distribution and disease transmission models;
- Development of better maps of high-risk areas for vector presence, as well as disease emergence and spread;
- Design of new surveillance frameworks accounting for these new diagnostic methods, new knowledge and risk assessment analyses;
- Improvement of intervention strategies against vector borne diseases.
VBD increasingly challenge
Current and predicted environmental and socio-economic changes imply that vector-borne diseases (VBD) are likely to become an increasing challenge for human and veterinary public health in Europe and the rest of the world. Their establishment and spread needs to be anticipated by developing specific research programmes and innovative surveillance and control strategies that can be translated into tools quickly brought into action for a better cost-efficient control of VBD.
Continuum between research and (VBD) surveillance
Vmerge intends to establish a continuum between field and experimental research, and vector/vector-borne disease (VBD) surveillance through a logical framework linking innovative diagnostics, prospective surveys in vector populations and their hosts sampled in selected ecosystems. This will lead to the identification of emerging risks of VBD for Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, and the implementation of improved surveillance strategies in this region, as well as in the Sahelian region of Africa through a reinforced North-South partnership.
Vmerge is a consortium of 16 beneficiaries from 12 countries, including 5 countries from western and northern Africa: Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. It encompasses most of European and Mediterranean ecosystems, plus Mauritania and Senegal making the eco-epidemiological link with Sahelian Africa.
Contributions Central Veterinary Institute
Vector competence (WP2)
The objectives of WP2 are:
- measuring the competence of candidate vector species for the viruses targeted in Vmerge;
- investigating the effects of genetic and environmental factors on vector competence;
- investigating the effect of ingested virus dose on competence and extrinsic incubation period (EIP);
- measuring the susceptibility of European cattle breeds to RVFV infection and the pathogenic effects of the virus.
Jeroen Kortekaas of the bunyavirus research group heads the research into the vector competence of European mosquitoes for Rift Valley fever virus.
Integrating ecology and epidemiology (WP3)
The general objective of this WP is to extend and improve existing models on landscape level for risk mapping of vector-borne diseases, specifically mosquito-borne and Culicoides-borne diseases, to improve our understanding of climatological impact, the role of vector ecology and the role of interactions between vectors, wildlife and livestock.
The Epidemiology group will incorporate virus transmission models in the vector population models for the spread of Rift Valley fever virus in Senegal. Furthermore, the impact of wildlife-livestock interactions on transmission of Cullicoides-borne diseases in different European climates will be investigated.
Egil Fischer (Wageningen Bioveterinary Research) is work package leader of WP3.