Over the past decades, numerous infectious diseases have emerged and re-emerged, a number of which are vector-borne diseases. The increasing incidence of these diseases has been attributed to a complex constellation of factors, but socio-economic and environmental are among the most important. The emergence of vector-borne diseases has been documented through wide areas of the globe: tropical regions continue to suffer from old scourges such as malaria, but also face increasing threats from the mosquito-borne dengue and chikungunya. In Europe, tick-borne diseases persist and have increased as a public health problem. North America has been struggling with West Nile virus since the end of the last century. This problem is not restricted to humans, as has been shown recently with the spread of blue tongue disease in Europe.
The main focus of the research is the quantitative investigation of links between the environment and human health. The approach emphasizes the integration of landscape in vector-borne diseases transmission, as a vector habitat, and as the place of human activities (Figure 1). In relation to this, studying land use and land cover change is an important aspect of the research carried out, since it will determine areas offering suitable vector and host habitat, as well as the location and timing of human activities. The group’s expertise in high-resolution remote sensing and in GIS is an important asset for studying these questions. Statistical analyses and modeling complete the set of quantitative tools used on a routine base. Some of the studies we have participated in or led have allowed a better understanding of mosquito-borne diseases and their relationship with land use and land use change in Thailand, and of tick-borne diseases incidence and their relationships with the landscape-level environment in continental Europe. Our experience also includes zoonoses and zoonotic diseases such as leishmaniasis, cowpox, and hantavirus.
conceptual model linking people, vectors and the environment. Vectors are dependent on specific habitats provided by the landscape; humans need to take environmental constraints into account in their decisions on activity location, but can also modify their environment. Vectors actively search their meals, on humans or others, but humans can use preventive measures against biting.
Relevant literature: Foley, J. A., DeFries, R., Asner, G. P., Barford, C., Bonan, G., Carpenter, S. R., Chapin, F. S., Coe, M. T., Daily, G. C., Gibbs, H. K., Helkowski, J. H., Holloway, T., Howard, E. A., and Kucharik, C. 2005. Global consequences of land use. Science 309: 570-574.
Jones, K. E., Patel, N. G., Storeygard, A., Balk, D. G. J. L., and Daszak, P. 2008. Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Nature 451: 990-994.
McMichael, A. 2004. Environmental and social influences in emerging infectious diseases: past, present and future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 359: 1049-1058.
Randolph, S. E. 2001. The shifting landscape of tick-borne zoonoses: tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme borreliosis in Europe. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B.
Wilcox, B. A., and Colwell, R. R. 2005. Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases: biocomplexity as an interdisciplinary paradigm. Ecohealth 2: 1-14.