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Ecological niche modelling of Hemipteran insects in Cameroon; the paradox of a vector-borne transmission for Mycobacterium ulcerans, the causative agent of Buruli ulcer

Carolan K., Ebong S.M.A., Garchitorena A., Landier J., Sanhueza D., Texier G., Marsollier L., Le Gall P., Guégan J.F., Lo Seen D.. 2014. International Journal of Health Geographics, 13 (44) : 11 p..

DOI: 10.1186/1476-072X-13-44

Background: The mode of transmission of the emerging neglected disease Buruli ulcer is unknown. Several potential transmission pathways have been proposed, such as amoebae, or transmission through food webs. Several lines of evidence have suggested that biting aquatic insects, Naucoridae and Belostomatidae, may act as vectors, however this proposal remains controversial. Materials and methods: Herein, based on sampling in Cameroon, we construct an ecological niche model of these insects to describe their spatial distribution. We predict their distribution across West Africa, describe important environmental drivers of their abundance, and examine the correlation between their abundance and Buruli ulcer prevalence in the context of the Bradford-Hill guidelines. Results: We find a significant positive correlation between the abundance of the insects and the prevalence of Buruli ulcer. This correlation changes in space and time, it is significant in one Camerounese study region in (Akonolinga) and not other (Bankim). We discuss notable environmental differences between these regions. Conclusion: We interpret the presence of, and change in, this correlation as evidence (though not proof) that these insects may be locally important in the environmental persistence, or transmission, of Mycobacterium. ulcerans. This is consistent with the idea of M. ulcerans as a pathogen transmitted by multiple modes of infection, the importance of any one pathway changing from region to region, depending on the local environmental conditions.

Mots-clés : mycobacterium; vecteur de maladie; insecte aquatique; heteroptera; transmission des maladies; dynamique des populations; biotope; modélisation environnementale; distribution spatiale; facteur du milieu; maladie de la peau; maladie de l'homme; cameroun; afrique occidentale; mycobacterium ulcerans; belostomatidae; naucoridae; ulcere

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