Addressing the Emergence and Spread of Leishmaniasis in the Borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay
Leishmaniasis is one of the most significant vector-borne diseases worldwide, with more than 2 million new cases recorded every year. In South America, both cutaneous leishmaniasis (skin infections) and the more severe visceral form of the disease (affecting vital organs) are emerging in many countries and expanding northward and southward. The border areas of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay have the highest burden of the disease in the region. Its emergence is strongly associated with environmental and anthropogenic changes, or pollution caused by humans. This research project aims to enhance prevention and control responses to the disease's emergence and spread in the bordering regions through multi-country collaboration. The project team will develop evidence-based interventions which can be adapted to diverse socio-cultural and ecological settings. More specifically, researchers will: -analyze social, environmental, and biological drivers causing the emergence or re-emergence of leishmaniasis; -assess how the disease is distributed and spread in time and space in the common borders between the three countries; -identify and develop innovative and effective ecohealth-based prevention strategies involving communities, researchers, and decision-makers from different jurisdictional levels and sectors; and, -improve vector and leishmaniasis control strategies in the three countries by strengthening cross-country collaboration, skills building, and knowledge exchange. In the area under study, different forms of transmission occur in a diversity of settings, ranging from forest to urban ecosystems, and from work to domestic environments. The region also has a diverse population, including the Guarani people, migrants (transient and permanent settlements), and tourists. Researchers will study biological, environmental, and social variables associated with disease transmission risks in different types of landscapes. In each country, a specific set of interventions will be developed to address the disease's emergence and spread. The project will engage researchers and decision-makers from the three countries to respond to public health authorities' explicit demands to improve the effectiveness of control programs. Participants will include decision-makers from the local, subnational, and national levels of the three countries, and technical experts from the Pan-American Health Organization. This will enhance uptake of results and implementation of multi-sector prevention and control strategies. It will also help ensure that results are replicated and scaled up in other high-risk areas of the sub-region. The work is expected to set the foundation for novel control strategies and programs in the three countries and inform possible regional responses.