Ghana project update

07 Feb 2020

At the start of February, Dr Marion England flew from the UK to Ghana to meet with Dr Godwin Kwakye-Nuako from the University of Cape Coast (UCC) and select the field sites for their Gnatwork-funded project. Their project aims to trap for Culicoides biting midges and sand flies using both CO2-baited light traps and human landing catches to (i) validate the light trap as a proxy for human biting rate and (ii) determine the vector of Leishmaniasis. Previous work carried out by Godwin has shown that unlike Leishmaniasis elsewhere, Phlebotomine sand flies are not likely to be the vector for this disease in Ho District, Ghana; evidence suggests that the disease is, in fact, spread by Culicoides.

Godwin and Marion, together with Priscilla Ankamaa Opare, a research assistant from UCC, travelled 12 hours by minibus to a village where Leishmaniasis is known to occur. They met with nurses from the local health clinic and with the deputy chief of the village to discuss the project and to get permission to carry out the insect trapping. The deputy chief was very interested in the project and recognised that understanding the pathways of transmission would benefit the local community and help to control the number of cases.

The village was located in a remote, rural area and despite being the dry season, was surrounded by lush vegetation. Goats and chicken roamed freely before heading back to their owner’s homes at dusk. Whilst walking around the village, Godwin and Marion were able to select the exact locations of the traps and human landing catch positions. It was extremely important to establish good relations with the community, helped by the fact that Godwin had previously conducted work there for his PhD. For Marion, visiting the site helped her to understand the challenges faced by those who will be directly carrying out the field work at the end of February. Interestingly, despite being the dry season, there were still many insects flying around and indeed a case of Leishmaniasis had been reported in the area within the last month.

Godwin will be visiting the UK in mid-February to finalise methods with Marion at The Pirbright Institute and Marion will be returning to UCC in Ghana in April to assist with identification of collected insects.

Written by Dr Marion England, Principal Investigator on Community Call project: "Validating a standard trap design against explicit estimates of human biting rate for biting midges and sandflies in a region of Ghana endemic for Leishmaniasis".