Zika: The Ecology of Zika transmision in Colombia and Ecuador

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: UNLISTED


Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Technical Summary

The ability of South American countries to effectively respond to the unprecedented recent
outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) is severely hampered by limited understanding of the ecology
of transmission within rapid expanding foci. The current outbreak may be a product of
changes in vector transmission potential as a consequence of i. climate change (in particular
the current El Niño event), ii. the expansion of new vector species like Aedes albopictus,
and/or iii. interactions with other arboviruses such as Dengue (DENV) and Chikungunya
(CHIKV) which are highly prevalent within current outbreak areas. Additionally, the Zika virus
itself may have underwent mutations that have increased its virulence and/or transmission
efficiency in mosquito vectors. Identifying the contribution of these factors and other
ecological drivers to the current outbreak is necessary both for planning effective vector
control strategies and predicting the future course of the outbreak. Here we propose to
conduct a comprehensive programme of mosquito vector surveillance and viral genotyping
within four south American settings where ZIKV cases are recently emerging. Studies will be
conducted within two South American countries where ZIKV has been reported but at
different frequency: Colombia where the current burden is high (31555 cases), and Ecuador
where cases are present but much lower frequency (50). Proposed sites also differ in
environmental characteristics, and diversity of potential vector species. By investigating the
ecology of mosquito vectors and their infection rates with ZIKV, DENV and CHIKV, we will
gather knowledge of critical importance for reducing human exposure and planning vector


10 25 50

Description Findings from this award contributed to the development of a new mosquito surveillance tool, the Mosquito Electrocuting Trap, by providing evidence that this method is also useful for estimating the human biting rates of Aedes mosquitoes vectors. This trap has been granted a UK patent (https://patents.google.com/patent/WO2016066847A1/en) and is being explored for commercialization.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal

Description USAID Grand Challenges to Combat Zika
Amount £780,129 (GBP)
Funding ID AID-OAA-F-16-00095 
Organisation United States Agency for International Development 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 09/2016 
End 09/2018
Title Development of large-scale semi-field systems for study of mosquito vector ecology and control 
Description In collaboration with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, I developed a novel large-scale Semi-field system in which populations of the most important African malaria vector species can be established and experimentally studied under realistic environmental conditions (Ferguson et al 2008). This novel facility provides an unparalleled opportunity to conduct experimental study of mosquitoes behaviour and ecology that would be otherwise intractable under open field conditions. Numerous studies are now taking place within this facility, and are shedding new insights in topics ranging from fundamental studies of the evolutionary and ecological forces that cause mosquitoes to bite humans, up to applied investigations of the effectiveness of new vector control tools (e.g. repellants, traps). These research facilities have been further expanded at the Ifakara Health Institute, and are now being established in several locations around the world for study of malaria vectors. Based on our experience, we have provided guidance on how to construct and maintain these faciltiies 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2008 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Our team published 3 papers describing the development and use of these faciltiies Ferguson, H.M., Ng'habi, K.R., Walder, T., Kadungula, D., Moore, S.J., Lyimo, I., Russell, T., Kihonda, J., Urassa, H., Mshinda, H., Killeen, G.F. and B.G.J. Knols. (2008) Establishment of a large semi-field system for experimental study of African malaria vector ecology and control in Tanzania. Malaria Journal, 7(158) Ng'habi, K.R.N., Mwasheshi, D., Knols, B.G.J., and Ferguson, H.M. (2010) Establishment of a self-propagating population of the African malaria vector Anopheles arabiensis under semi-field conditions. Malaria Journal, 9(1), p. 356. 
Title Mosquito Electrocuting Trap 
Description We developed a novel method for exposure-free measurement of human exposure to mosquito vectors. This trap is intended to be used as alternative to the current 'gold standard' Human Landing Catch; which although reliable involves exposing human subjects to potential risk of infection from biting mosquitoes. Our mosquito electrocuting trap provides an electrified barrier that can be placed around a human or animal host, which intercedes and kills mosquitoes as they approach but just before landing; thus removing any risk of hosts being bitten. In partnership with our co-inventors at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, we have developed and evaluated this trap for surveillance of the mosquito vectors of malaria (in east and west Africa) and arboviruses (in Ecuador and Colombia). 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact -This tool has being use to directly estimate human exposure to Aedes mosquito vectors of Dengue in urban Ecuador; currently there is no alternative method to measure this and it is crucial for estimating the magnitude of transmission. -Application of this tool to estimate the degree of outdoor biting by malaria vectors across Tanzania underpinned a successful to MRC African Research Leaders Award granted to co-inventor and collaborator Dr. Nico Govella from the Ifakara Health Institute (2020-2024). This will allow Dr. Govella to quantify the degree of human exposure to malaria vectors that cannot be prevented by current front line control measures including Insectide Treated Nets and Indoor Treated Nets 
URL https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2016/october/headline_488711_en.html
Description National Health Institute of Colombia (INS) 
Organisation National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am leading a collaborative project on the ecology of Zika virus vectors in Colombia and Ecuador, in collaboration with two South American Universities (Colombia: Universidad Antonio Narino, Ecuador: Universidad San Francisco de Quito). Through this we are contributing funding (MRC grant) and coordination of project on Zika vector surveillance in Colombia. We contribute to project management and leadership, protocol development, study design, statistical analysis of data and molecular analysis of mosquito specimens.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners in Colombia enlisted the support of medical entomologists at the National Institute of Health to assist us with our field work. Two members of staff from the NIH are conducting field studies on mosquitoes in 2 sites in Colombia for us. They are contributing expertise in mosquito sampling, taxonomy and field logistics and coordination.
Impact https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-3887-8
Start Year 2016
Description Universidad Antonio Narino 
Organisation Universidad Antonio Nariño
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am the Principal investigator on the MRC grant in which Professor Felio Bello from UAN is a co-investigator. Our contribution to this programme is through leading the coordination of research activities, study design, statistical analysis of data, molecular analysis of mosquito samples, and guiding the write up of results.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners at UAN are leading all field-based research on mosquito vectors in Colombia. Together with other partners at the Colombian Ministry of Health, they are coordinating and conducting mosquito surveillance activities in 2 settings where Zika transmission is occurring, and collating associated data bases.
Impact Outputs still under development
Start Year 2016
Description Universidad San Francisco de Quito 
Organisation University of San Francisco Quito
Country Ecuador 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am Principal investigator on this MRC grant in which USFQ are co-investigators. I supervise and coordinate the overall research programme, and am providing specific expertise on study design, implementation, analysis and presentation. My PhD. student is leading field activities in Ecuador in collaboration with USFQ
Collaborator Contribution Our partners at USFQ have helped develop this grant proposal , and have coordinated and implemented all of our collaborative field-based research on Zika mosquito vectors in Ecuador.
Impact As field research activities only began last September, we are still collecting data and have not yet published any outputs.
Start Year 2016
Description Case study on Mosquito Festival Events published on MeSH open access website as example of good practice in Community Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We obtained public engagement funding from the Wellcome Trust as an addition to our MRC Zika Rapid Response parent award (MC_PC_15081) to carry out a series of community engagement events in Zika-affected communities in Colombia and Ecuador to disseminate information on the risks of mosquito-borne diseases in local communities, and preventive measures. These were run as a series of "Mosquito Festival" events planned to coincide with "World Mosquito Day" in Aug 2017. After the events, we were contacted by the Mesh network, a Wellcome Trust-funded initiative that provides an online meeting place where community engagement practitioners, researchers, health workers and others can network, share resources and discuss good practice. We were asked to write a case study documenting our experience in running the Mosquito Festival events for publication on the MesH website. This was aimed to provide an example of good practice to the community engagement community and stimulate discussion on lessons learned. This was published in Jan 2019: https://mesh.tghn.org/articles/project-report-world-mosquito-day-community-festival-raise-awareness-mosquito-vectors-local-communities/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://mesh.tghn.org/articles/project-report-world-mosquito-day-community-festival-raise-awareness-...
Description Presentation at the Glasgow Science Festival 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact ~150 people attended a public event on the history of Zika research and current status as part of the Glasgow Scientific Festival. As one of 3 speakers, I gave a presentation on the current status of the Zika outbreak in South America, potential implications to people in the UK, and described the aims and activities of our current collaborative research in South America as funded by this MRC grant. There was an extended period for questions at the end where we provided information to the public's questions about Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases, and risks to people in the UK. This gave us opportunity to significantly improve the audience's understanding of mosquito-borne diseases and the best methods they can use to protect themselves (e.g. use of repellants, long sleeved clothes, bednets etc). It also helped clarify some misinformation that members of the public had about why Zika has emerged.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://glasgowsciencefestival.wordpress.com/tag/zika-virus/
Description World Mosquito Day Community Festivals Ecuador and Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We received ~£16k from the Wellcome Trust Provision for Public Engagement to hold a series of community festivals to coincide with "World Mosquito Day" within the 4 communities (2 in Ecuador, 2 in Colombia) where our MRC Zika rapid response project activities took place. The aim of these 1 day festivals was to educate local communities and school children about the risk of Aedes borne diseases (Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya) in their communties, tell them about the vectors we had found in their communities and communicate information on how to protect them and their family from mosquito bites. These events were advertised on radio and TV. Events included plays be local community theatre about these diseases, music, displays with educational information and pamphlets, and mosquito samples. There were word games/colouring activities for children related to these events. Groups of school children attended during the day, and were asked to fill out questionnaires about their knowledge of mosquito-borne diseases, and provide feedback on the event. Approximately 100-200 school children from each location took part, plus additional members of the local community and government.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017