Specific Aims

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The goal of this project will be toinvestigate how the local ecological setting influences the breedingof mosquitoes and birds in Uganda, thereby leading to thetransmission of the West Nile Virus (WNV). The public health problemof the West Nile fever in Uganda and other tropical countries arisesfrom the warm climate that encourages the breeding of mosquitoes.These insects are the vectors that lead to the transmission of thisvirus. The least researched aspect of the illness is the interactionbetween mosquitoes and birds, with the former serving as thereservoir hosts. Ecological interactions promote the transmission ofthe virus. Various studies will be conducted during the hightransmission seasons of WNV to address the knowledge gap on the roleof the interaction between the birds and mosquitoes. The project issignificant in that it will help in controlling potential outbreaksof this virus. Conventional control methods have been inadequate,hence, the need to innovate by cutting the transmission chain of thevirus between the birds and the mosquitoes.

Specific Aim 1:To characterize how the West Nile vector species select specificsites for their breeding. The interaction between the mosquitoes andreservoir vectors will be crucial in the testing of the followinghypothesis:

    1. Mosquito and bird populations are at their highest during the warm and wet periods. Both species thrive in the vegetation hence, favorable weather is a boost to their reproduction. Increased population leads to more interactions between the two vectors of the West Nile virus.

    1. A high density of bird and mosquito populations can help predict potential outbreaks of the virus. Mosquitoes feeding on blood from infected birds serve as the primary hosts of the virus.

Specific Aim 2:Determine the role of the local environment in promoting the breedingand interaction of the birds and mosquitoes. This step will involvetesting hypothesis 2.1) The seasonal changes in the availability ofenvironmental resources impacts on the breeding of the vectors henceaffecting the rate of transmission of the virus. Weather changesinfluence the breeding of animals and insects alike. Hence, the samelogic applies to the vectors involved in the transmission of the WestNile Virus. A higher population of the mosquitoes causes acorresponding increase in their vectorial capacity. Certain areasconducive for this breeding such as ponds and bushes serve as thehotspots for the spread of the virus. Managing such areas especiallythose in proximity to human settlements is a crucial way ofpreventing people from contracting the WNV.Clearing ponds or anystagnant water denies mosquitoes of their breeding grounds. Suchactions reduces the rate of exposure to humans hence a reduction inpotential infections.

Specific Aim 3:Develop new approaches and specific criteria for identifying seasonalconcentrations of birds and mosquito vector populations whoseinteraction in the ecology are associated with the spread of the WestNile Virus. This stage will involve testing hypothesis 3.1) GIS-basedDempster-Shafer Weight-of-evidence theory and models of speciesdistribution can help in the prediction of the locations of theseasonality and shifting habitats of the vectors. The knowledge oftheir movements facilitates control measures like spraying themosquitoes to avoid any infections in nearby settlements.

This project is a representation of afirst major investigation of the effects of the ecology on thebreeding of mosquitoes and birds, which are the primary vectors ofthe West Nile Virus. It is crucial since the results will pave wayfor the implementation of preventative approach to the virus, whichis affordable in comparison to the actual treatment. The outcome ofthe research will also be a source of insight for the understandingof the role of environmental resources in promoting the breeding ofthe vectors of this virus. The GIS-based tool is critical inidentifying concentrations of the mosquito and bird populations.

In-house vector control tools haveproven ineffective hence unsustainable in efforts to kill mosquitoesand curb the spread of West Nile Virus. This research is critical inestablishing a biological basis for facilitating the success of newsolutions outdoor WNV vector control in mosquito-friendlyenvironments. Besides, the use of the GIS tool is an innovative wayof applying technology to monitor these vectors in real time henceavoiding potential infections.