For several centuries, human intervention has changed land cover, in particular through land conversion for agriculture. Land-use changes can alter not only atmospheric composition and climate, but also influence ecosystem dynamics by changing species diversity and abundances. As many species transmit infectious diseases to humans, land-use change can have a significant impact on endemic levels and infection risks. The 2020 goals set by the World Health Organization constitute a program for controlling the burden of morbidity of nine neglected tropical diseases. One of them, Chagas disease, is endemic in Latin America and it is transmitted to humans by kissing bugs. Without treatment, Chagas disease can cause serious heart and digestive complications. Chagas disease persists not only in domestic habitats, but also in the wild, which implies that it may be affected strongly by land-use change. Supporting policy development with quantitative research is one of the main approaches recommended by the WHO for achieving their 2020 goals. Thus, considering the expanding economy of oil-palm plantations in Latin America, the aim of my study is to analyze the effect of land-use change on Chagas-disease infection risk in Colombia. The principal objectives are to: (i) understand the relative importance of wild and domestic reservoirs of the disease and (ii) assess the possible impacts on human transmission rates due to altered insect vector inflows caused by land-use changes. I will approach these questions by using field data and geographic information systems coupled with an epidemiological model.
Last edited: 23 May 2017
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