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CLIMOS – sand fly-borne diseases in your mobile phone

Going for holidays to the Mediterranean? Beside weather forecast, accommodation prices and rating of beaches, you may soon also check in your mobile phone a risk of contracting leishmaniasis. Researchers from our faculty participate at CLIMOS, a new project aiming to study the effects of climate change on the distribution of phlebotomine sand flies and sand fly-borne pathogens in Europe and adjacent regions. And beside new scientific data, it shall provide some very handy outcomes.

A three-year project with a budget over 9 million Euros is jointly funded by European Commision and UK Research and Innovation fund within a grant call „Environment and Health“ that focuses on effects of ongoing climate change on human health. Sand flies were chosen as a model organism on purpose. Females of this tiny insect that belongs to the Diptera suck blood on various vertebrates including humans. During this blood feeding, various pathogens like parasitic protozoa, bacteria or viruses can be transmitted. In Europe, these are mostly Leishmania, parasites related to more known trypanosomes but also various viruses, some known for decades, others recorded only recently.

Sand fly - a vector of parasites of the genus Leishmania. Author: Jovana Sádlová


Leishmania infantum, a species of human- infection Leishmania most often transmitted in Europe, can infect also other hosts including domestic dogs which are the most important reservoir host and may also suffer from canine leishmaniasis. Thus, sand flies are vectors of infectious diseases significant for human as well as veterinary medicine. Their larvae overwinter in soil, increasing temperatures during winter due to ongoing climate change can therefore open door to their emergence into new regions. And sand fly-borne pathogens may follow.

CLIMOS project consortium is comprised by 29 partners from 16 countries and it is coordinated by Dr. Carla Maia; several years back, she spent part of her post doc at our faculty in the Laboratory of Insect Vectors headed by prof. Volf. Beside researchers from European universities and research institutions, several private companies that focus on models of processes and large datasets analyses participate as well as three ministries of health (Israel, Italy and Turkey) who will ensure effective implementation of gained knowledge into the relevant decision making in public health. Coordination of such a diverse consortium therefore constitutes not only scientific but also managerial challenge. The aims of the project are very complex and involve analysis of datasets gained within previous studies as well as two-year active field surveys in 10 endemic countries to collect sand flies and sand fly-borne pathogens along with microclimatic data supplemented by input from publicly available data sources, assess the risk of pathogen transmission to human and animal hosts, model the scenarios of sand fly emergence and prepare guidelines for relevant policies for protection of human health. All these activities shall contribute to the ultimate goal of the project: development of an early waring system of sand fly-borne diseases, broadly available, also as a mobile app.

Logo of the CLIMOS project


The Laboratory of Insect Vectors headed by prof. Volf at the Department of Parasitology is involved in the CLIMOS project at many levels. Field activities are coordinated by dr. Vít Dvořák who will monitor a potential spread of sand flies in the Czech Republic (so far, they were recorded in neighbouring Austria and Slovakia). Groups of Ass. Prof. Jovana Sádlová and dr. Magdalena Jančářová will use their unique sand fly laboratory colonies to test vector competence of several species to transmit Leishmania and viruses. In collaboration with their colleagues from the UK, they will also test novel semiochemical attractants potentially useful as lures of a newly developed sand fly trap. Dr. Iva Kolářová and her co-workers will develop novel recombinant salivary antigens as markers of exposure to sand fly bites. After three years, all these research activities will accumulate vast new knowledge in many aspects of sand fly-pathogen interactions … and hopefully contribute towards a development of a useful and reliable early warning system mobile app.

Published: Apr 13, 2023 03:00 PM

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