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Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America - Leishmania


2015-07-01 13:26:06 - 2016-12-31 13:26:06

Project Objectives

For the past 3 years, we have run a successful Bass program in Peru to train students in field epidemiology and bench-to-field science focused on understanding human health impacts from ongoing environmental change due to gold mining, road construction and heavy metal exposure. This application continues this general theme by focusing on cutaneous leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is a neglected tropical disease that is transmitted by a phlebotomine sandfly. While the total number of cases reported in South America is relatively low (200,000-300,000 annually), Peru has the 2nd highest incidence rate, and our study region, which is the Andean-Amazon areas of Madre de Dios and Cusco, accounts for 30% of all cases reported. There is little information available regarding the ecology of vectors for leishmania, particularly pertaining to preferred locations of reproduction and animal reservoirs of infection.

The purpose of this project is to learn about the current epidemiology and state of science regarding leishmaniasis, including vector ecology, transmission dynamics, cutaneous vs. visceral forms of disease, and treatment options and design and implement a field-based ecological study of leishmania vectors and (potential) hosts. Students will be trained in ecological sampling, sandfly morphology, animal biology, and sample collection, storage, and processing in the field. The project also includes working with the Ministry of Health to conduct prevalence surveys of infection and with the US Naval Medical Research Unit-6 (NAMRU-6) to conduct parasitology tests on identified patients having active skin lesions. Lastly, this project includes developing molecular screens that can be used for improving the detection of sandflies in environmental samples. This will involve using archived sandflies from prior years and developing (or identifying) molecular tools that can be used to identify different sandfly species.

Project Opportunities

All students should have at least an intermediate level of Spanish; although we will make exceptions for students with laboratory experience. We are interested in students from Biology, Environmental Science, Global Health, International Studies, and Statistics (1 doctoral student, 1 master's student & 3 undergraduate students) or with strong interests and skills in these areas.

Project Application Process

Please complete the Bass Central Application process, located here: https://bassconnections.duke.edu/content/common-application.

When you have completed that process, please send an email to Lysa.mackeen@duke.edu with the title of the project and "application completed" in the subject line.

Project Placements Available


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