ParaSahel - One Health and citizen science approaches for contextualized community-led interventions tackling water-borne parasitic diseases in Chad

Given the complexity of vector-borne diseases that depend on biotic, abiotic and socio-cultural factors, an integrative approach is vital for effective and successful control. Therefore, this projects links ecologists, epidemiologists, geographers, social scientists, veterinarians from different partners in Belgium, Chad, the Netherlands and Switzerland in an interdisciplinary research team, complemented with stakeholders from local communities, NGOs and ministries.

To guide this collaboration to succeed, we propose two innovative concepts, One Health and Citizen Science, combined to generate scientific data needed for the development of interventions and at the same time engaging the communities.

A particular focus is put on transmission cycles and risk factors for humans and animals, which will be tackled by bringing the two concepts into action. The role of humans, animals and intermediate host snails in the parasites’ epidemiology will be investigated, as previous studies revealed high prevalence of schistosomiasis and fascioliasis animals and schistosomiasis in humans, and the presence of Schistosoma haematobium / S. bovis hybrids. These may have important implications in intervention design. The underlying identified research gaps are that isolated interventions targeting children only, poor understanding of environmental factors and insufficient community involvement result in low acceptance of repeated interventions, and consequently in persisting infections and perceived non-effectiveness of treatment.

Therefore, emphasis is put on effective communication strategies through the creation of Citizen Science networks to actively co-create contextualized intervention strategies targeting human, animal and environmental health. All these factors together will not only greatly increase the sustainability and impact of this project, but we believe that this community-centred eco-biosocial approach is the (only) way forward to effectively reduce and ultimately eliminate neglected zoonotic diseases like schistosomiasis and fascioliasis.

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