The Tropical Infectious Diseases Group brings together expertise on neglected tropical diseases (in particular leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis, leprosy as well as dengue and other arboviruses) and on common infectious diseases (such as malaria and TB) using a transdisciplinary perspective. The community perspective is key and addressed by a mixed methods approach. Priority topics for 2020-2024 are the science of disease elimination, eco-health and emerging infections. The ambition in particular is to strengthen surveillance and risk assessment for these (and other) infectious diseases through the use of innovative tools and methods, including the setting up of health demographic surveillance systems. The focus of the TID group is to unravel transmission dynamics, risks and determinants, as well as to develop and test interventions that reduce the burden of infectious diseases.
Effective health interventions and programs can reduce the burden and impact of TIDs through transdisciplinary research, teaching and capacity building. We aim for a systemic understanding of the transmission, determinants and burden of tropical infectious diseases, with a focus on socio-ecological dynamics and heterogeneity. We will develop innovative, sustainable and appropriate surveillance and risk assessments tools and will evaluate acceptability, cost and effectiveness of (novel) interventions to control or eliminate specific tropical infectious diseases. We will build on our strong expertise related to neglected tropical diseases and vector borne diseases, in particular arbovirosis and malaria, and include multi-stakeholder involvement in all stages of research, teaching and capacity building.
Our research plan is built around three specific, albeit strongly interconnected, specific objectives:
- Specific objective 1: Disease Elimination Sciences (IPP theme 3). While focusing on selected tropical infectious diseases, whereby we build on the existing ITM expertise, we aim to develop generalisable insights beyond those specific diseases. We aim to lead research into effective and sustainable interventions that contribute to the elimination of tropical infectious diseases, taking into account spatial, biological, entomological, environmental and social heterogeneities. Common challenges include identifying and testing effective methods for screening, diagnostics, case-finding and contact tracing, in pre- and post-elimination phases, as well as studying hidden reservoirs and mobilisation of support. Improved understanding of the complex transmission dynamics aims to facilitate the development of novel strategies for tropical infectious disease impact mitigation and elimination. In future with additional external funding, other NTD, such as schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis, and other vector borne infections, could be included.
- Specific objective 2: Eco-health (IPP theme 4). In close collaboration with the health systems & policy group and the clinical and biomedical departments, we aim to develop a system-based transdisciplinary approach to analyse socio-ecological dynamics that shape tropical infectious diseases transmission and outcomes apart from pathogen, reservoir and host factors (including environmental factors, climate change, human mobility and urbanisation). To develop an evidence-base for policies aimed at resilience and adaptation, we will analyse interactions between the different components or levels of the ecosystem in which people are living, and will study vulnerability and active strategies deployed by populations in the context of modifications on vector, agent, host, (hidden) reservoirs, social and environmental dynamics.
- Specific objective 3: Emerging infections and outbreaks (IPP theme 1&2). Our research will concentrate on effective acceptable responses by validating novel surveillance, risk assessment, diagnostics and early warning methods, integrating social, human and pathogen dynamics. We will work closely with long-standing collaborators to strengthen early warning as well as develop research into transmission and uptake of interventions, assess optimal strategies to integrate vaccination and sanitation in mitigation response, and assess impact on resilience. Optimal impact of vaccinations and addressing emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are of particular concern. Methodological innovations will be explored to address common themes in infectious disease emergence and control, and overcome previous constraints towards sustainable and effective responses.