Conservation Science

Trypanosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa

Trypanosomiasis case studies in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, is a zoonotic disease which is invariably fatal if not treated. It is a vector-borne disease transmitted by the tsetse fly with a broad reservoir community including many wildlife and domestic animal species. The Luangwa Valley in Zambia has long been recognised as a geographical focus for the disease.

Interdisciplinary research

We have contributed to a wider research project, the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium project, investigating the relationships between ecosystems, zoonoses, health and wellbeing. Through our contributions to the trypanosomiasis case studies in Zambia and Zimbabwe we investigated how factors such as human migration patterns, changes in domestic animal populations, landcover change and human behaviour influence the epidemiology of this disease.

Using data from the Zambian case study in the Luangwa valley, we have developed an agent-based model which models disease transmission at the individual level and incorporates seasonal factors influencing tsetse population dynamics.

Tsetse host preferences

Through molecular analysis of tsetse blood meals we have investigated the feeding preferences of tsetse in a natural wildlife cycle. It is almost unique to have data relating to tsetse behaviour in an environment without influence from domesticated animals.

Ongoing research activities

Our ongoing research is focussed on the development of a One Health approach to the management of trypanosomiasis across communities and the vet, conservation and medical sectors in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. PhD student, Ackson Mwale, is applying anthropology approaches to further our understanding and inform policy interventions to support the sustainable control and elimination of human sleeping sickness as a public health problem.