The COMBAT project: controlling and progressively minimizing the burden of vector-borne animal trypanosomosis in Africa
Vector-borne diseases affecting livestock have serious impacts in Africa. Trypanosomosis is caused by parasites transmitted by tsetse flies and other blood-sucking Diptera. The animal form of the disease is a scourge for African livestock keepers, is already present in Latin America and Asia, and has the potential to spread further. A human form of the disease also exists, known as human African trypanosomosis or sleeping sickness. Controlling and progressively minimizing the burden of animal trypanosomosis (COMBAT) is a four-year research and innovation project funded by the European Commission, whose ultimate goal is to reduce the burden of animal trypanosomosis (AT) in Africa. The project builds on the progressive control pathway (PCP), a risk-based, step-wise approach to disease reduction or elimination. COMBAT will strengthen AT control and prevention by improving basic knowledge of AT, developing innovative control tools, reinforcing surveillance, rationalizing control strategies, building capacity, and raising awareness. Knowledge gaps on disease epidemiology, vector ecology and competence, and biological aspects of trypanotolerant livestock will be addressed. Environmentally friendly vector control technologies and more effective and adapted diagnostic tools will be developed. Surveillance will be enhanced by developing information systems, strengthening reporting, and mapping and modelling disease risk in Africa and beyond. The socio-economic burden of AT will be assessed at a range of geographical scales. Guidelines for the PCP and harmonized national control strategies and roadmaps will be developed. Gender equality and ethics will be pivotal in all project activities. The COMBAT project benefits from the expertise of African and European research institutions, national veterinary authorities, and international organizations. The project consortium comprises 21 participants, including a geographically balanced representation from 13 African countries, and it will engage a larger number of AT-affected countries through regional initiatives.