Sciensano & Vector-borne diseases

Last updated on 22-2-2023 by Charlien Hupko

Epidemiological surveillance in humans

Sciensano’s Epidemiology of infectious diseases service is responsible for the epidemiological surveillance of several vector-borne diseases in humans. For this purpose, we collect data through different surveillance systems, which allows us to:

  • describe the occurrence of the diseases in Belgium
  • follow-up trends over time
  • and identify possible risk factors for infection.

More information is available by disease under ‘Health topics A-Z’. 

Surveillance of tick bites on humans

TekenNet or TiquesNet is a citizen science platform created in 2015 and managed by Sciensano’s Epidemiology of infectious diseases service. It allows citizens to report tick bites on humans contracted in Belgium, via a website or mobile application.

The objective of the project is to monitor the exposure of the Belgian population to tick bites over time and space. Based on the data, Sciensano can better map the time frame and geographical risk zones of higher tick activity in Belgium, which allows people potentially exposed to tick bites to take appropriate preventive measures. 

Mosquito surveillance (MEMO+)

The MEMO+ project aims to monitor the introduction of exotic Aedes mosquitoes, such as the tiger mosquito, into Belgium. The Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp (ITM) is actively tracking Aedes mosquitoes and eggs at the level of potential entry points, such as highway parking lots and tire companies. Sciensano coordinates the passive monitoring, through a citizen science project, where citizens are invited to report the presence of tiger mosquitoes by uploading photos via a website.

Research on vectors

Sciensano’s Zoonotic bacterial diseases unit of the Veterinary Bacteriology service focuses its research on improving the understanding of the ticks’ microbial community in defined Belgian ecological niches. A deep knowledge on tick-associated microbial communities and the interaction between them, is important in identifying if particular predictors or potential microbial drivers exist during pathogen transmission. 

Research on pathogen-host and pathogen-vector interactions

In the VBDExpert and MODEVECO projects, Sciensano’s Exotic and vector-borne diseases service performs research on vector competence and other aspects of vector capacity of indigenous Belgian vectors for selected diseases, to evaluate the risk that local vectors would be capable to transmit exotic vector-borne viruses upon an accidental introduction. Such studies are done for tick-borne encephalitis virus in Ixodes ricinus ticks and for West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis virus in several mosquito species (e.g. Culex pipiens, Anopheles plumbeus). 

Furthermore, the service also performs infection studies with selected diseases in natural animal host species to study the pathogenesis and induced immune responses. This research aims to build expertise and capacity, increase our preparedness by implementing diagnostic tests and develop relevant infection models which can be used for vaccine safety and efficacy studies. Currently, we are studying the interaction between Japanese encephalitis virus and pigs and between tick-borne encephalitis virus and Louping ill virus and mice and sheep. 

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