Zoonoses, infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, place a significant burden on public health. An estimated 60% of human pathogens are zoonotic in origin.
The Indian Ocean islands, including Madagascar and Réunion, present a useful environment for the study of zoonotic diseases. Their geographical isolation allows for accurate estimations of the number of mammalian species. Epidemiologists in the region take advantage of this to monitor the movement of infected animals and vectors of disease in the region. The open access articles published in this collection illustrate the epidemiological value of these islands in the modelling and study of zoonotic diseases.
On the launch of the article collection, its Guest Editor Dr Ronan Jambou stated:
“Leptospirosis, rabies or yellow fever are infectious diseases with an epidemiology particularly linked to the habitat, which illustrates the complexity of the transmission of diseases in this area. At the same time dispersion of smooth ticks illustrates the spreading of vectors from one island to another. Analysis of this complex setting will pave the way for the prevention of further epidemics, as has been the case for chikungunya virus.”
This article series showcases the high-quality collaborative research between local experts – based at institutions including the Madagascar Ministry of Agriculture, the Indian Ocean Health Agency and the Université de la Réunion – and infectious disease researchers at international biomedical research centres including the Institut Pasteur, CIRAD and INRA, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO):
Soa Andrimandimby and colleagues present a review of the surveillance and control of rabies in La Réunion, Mayotte and Madagascar. The authors include Dr Hervé Bourhy, head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Rabies, and Steven Goodman, a conservation biologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and co-author of The Natural History of Madagascar.
A review article by authors including Dr Thomas Balenghien takes a close look at the epidemiology of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in the islands of the south west Indian Ocean. The authors report that even a single infected animal can trigger a major outbreak of RVF when entering a country with no history of infection. The virus carrying the disease is highly infectious and can be transmitted to humans in a number of ways, including close contact with infected animal blood or excreta, consumption of raw milk and occasionally through mosquito bites.
Leptospirosis is an emerging bacterial zoonosis that presents a major health concern, especially in tropical regions. Dr Amélie Desvars and colleagues describe the epidemiology of the disease in Indian Ocean territories. The region’s unique geography has also enabled Frédéric Stachurski and his co-authors to track the movements and impact of island-hopping disease vectors, by monitoring cattle tick distribution across individual islands.”
Zoonotic diseases show us that human health is inextricably linked to animal health and welfare. We hope that this article collection will make a significant contribution towards understanding zoonoses within the ecosystem of infectious disease research and the wider public readership.
Matt Landau, Journal Development Editor