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de Bellegarde de Saint Lary


Track: 6, Travelers as sentinel and source of arboviruses



Prof. Leo Visser


Dr. Patricia Bruijning


LUMC, UMC Utrecht

Description PhD project

Travel and tourism have been recognized as main drivers of infectious diseases occurrence. For this reason, their monitoring through risk-based surveillance can, not only contribute to early detection of cases and improve response, but also reduce the risk of these events occurring and enhance preparedness activities [1]. In Europe, several events of autochthonous transmission and local outbreaks following the introduction of arboviruses by viraemic travellers have been reported in the last years [2]. The aim of this PhD project is therefore to detect arbovirus infections and to determine prevalence of seropositivity in returning travellers in order to assess the risk of importation and exposure to vector-borne diseases during their trips. Considering the reduction in the number of travels overseas due to COVID-19, the PhD will mainly target travellers visiting areas in Europe which are considered hotspots for arbovirus circulation. Travellers will be involved in data collection using a newly developed mobile-health application which will allow us to gather travel and health related information. In particular, the participants to this research will be asked to keep a digital symptom diary during their journey and to provide self-collected finger prick blood samples upon their return. Moreover, the possibility to collect data on the mosquito population will be explored. The participants may be asked to report and take pictures of mosquitoes detected during their journey providing additional information on traveller exposure to mosquito bites and risk of vector dispersal. Finally, a preparedness protocol will be developed in collaboration with the other PhDs in order to allow early warning and targeted human and animal surveillance in the event of suspected arbovirus circulation in The Netherlands.

[1] Semenza J., Rocklöv J., Penttinen P., Lindgren, Elisabet. Observed and projected drivers of emerging infectious diseases in Europe. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1382 (2016) 73–83. https://doi: 10.1111/nyas.13132

[2] Gossner Céline M, Ducheyne Els, Schaffner Francis. Increased risk for autochthonous vector-borne infections transmitted by Aedes albopictus in continental Europe. Euro Surveill. 2018;23(24):pii=1800268.

Research questions / objectives

  1. Which is the prevalence of arbovirus infections in returning travellers from endemic areas in Europe and overseas?
  2. To explore arbovirus seroconversion in the Dutch population before and after travel.
  3. Which are travel and health related factors leading to a higher risk of arbovirus infections among travellers?
  4. Which is the contribution of travelling to the importation of vector-borne diseases and mosquito vectors?

Tags matching with the contents of track 6


  • Labwork

    • PCR: PCR will be used to detect arbovirus infected travellers upon their return


    • Public health surveillance: Human serum samples will be tested to explore seropositivity for vector-borne diseases in the Netherlands and after travelling in Europe

    Citizen science

    • Citizen science: Travellers will be asked to keep a digital symptom diary during their journey and provide information on potential risk behaviours. In addition, they might be asked to collect data on the mosquito population in their travel destinations.


    • Epidemiological modelling: Epidemiological models will be used to assess the contribution of travelling to the importation of vector-borne diseases


    • Literature review: I will be performing a literature review on arbovirus infections in humans in Europe
    • Document analysis: I will be performing document analysis of technical documents such as epidemiological reports and rapid risk assessments


  • Vector:

    • Vector movement patterns, dispersal: Mosquito dispersal by car might be investigated in order to assess the risk of vector importation through travels in Europe


    • Host movement patterns: I will be using information on travel data to assess the risk of travel-related arbovirus infections
    • Host Seroprevalence: Human serum samples will be tested to investigate seropositivity for vector-borne diseases in the Netherlands and after travelling in Europe


    • Preparedness: Data collected on vector-borne diseases exposure and arbovirus importation through infectious travellers will contribute to develop a preparedness plan for early warning and targeted surveillance
    • Improved surveillance( response surveillance): I will develop a plan in order to allow targeted human surveillance in case of arbovirus circulation in the Netherlands


  • Species:

    • Human: I will be investigating travel-related arbovirus infections and explore seropositivity for vector-borne diseases in humans in order to allow early detection and targeted surveillance


  • Virus:

    • Virus (general): Human samples will be tested for all arboviruses taking into account visited areas and reported outbreaks in travel destinations

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This project 'Preparing for vector-borne virus outbreaks in a changing world: a One Health Approach' (NWA. 1160.1S.210) is (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

More about this project and the Dutch Research Council (NWO)

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