Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Environmental Hotspots of Vector-borne Parasitic Infections (2019-2020)

This Bass Connections team aimed to understand the drivers of malaria in the Amazon related to three areas: social network transmission, genetic strains of malaria and sociodemographic risk factors.

In collaboration with the University of San Francisco-Quito Ecuador, the social network transmission team focused on social connectivity and trans-border migration as a social determinant for malaria transmission along the Ecuador-Peru border.

Team members working on genomic analysis obtained malaria-positive blood slides from multiple health posts in Peru and Ecuador during the summer of 2019. Through a partnership with the North Carolina State University Vector Borne Disease Diagnostics Laboratory, they began sequencing malaria parasite DNA. The goal was to determine the origin of different circulating Plasmodium vivax strains near border regions of the two countries. They utilized strain-specific microsatellites to assess whether strains originated from Ecuador or Peru. Eventually, they were able to successfully separate and analyze P. Vivax DNA.

Their data suggested that, for women under the age of 18, early marriage and childbirth is a risk factor for child malaria contraction. Using both previously collected prospective longitudinal data from Loreto, Peru and sociodemographic data collected from Indigenous communities in Ecuador in 2019, the third team evaluated whether risk factors for maternal reproductive health and family migratory behavior are associated with elevated malaria risk. They hypothesized that young maternal age at marriage and childbirth is associated with increased risk of malaria among children. They also hypothesized that labor mobility interacts with younger age of marriage to multiplicatively increase malaria risk for children and adolescent offspring.


Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

Team Outputs

Transmission of Malaria in the Amazon (Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase 2020)

Studying Malaria Transmission Patterns in the Amazon (poster by Lissette Araya, Jonathan Avendano, Alex Bajana, Annika Gunderson, Olivia Hunt, Rani Kumar, Amelia Martin, Robert Rolfe Jr, Maria Velasco, Mackenzie Zepeda; winner of the Bass Connections 2020 poster competition)

This Team in the News

Bass Connections Teams Share Research Highlights in a Virtual Showcase

See earlier related team, Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon (2018-2019).


Image: A la vuelta, by Sergio Ubaldo Rios Bardalesm, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A la vuelta, by Sergio Ubaldo Rios Bardalesm.

Team Leaders

  • Justin Lana, Nicholas School - Environment-Ph.D. Student
  • William Pan, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Robert Rolfe, School of Medicine-Medicine: Infectious Diseases

/graduate Team Members

  • Annika Gunderson, Global Health - MSc
  • Rani Kumar, Environment-MS
  • Maria Velasco, Master of Environmental Management

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Lissette Araya
  • Jonathan Avendano, Biology (BS), Classical Languages (AB2)
  • Alex Bajana, Biology (BS), Computer Science (AB2)
  • Olivia Hunt, Political Science (AB)
  • Jepchumba Koech, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Amelia Martin, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)
  • Mackenzie Zepeda, Cultural Anthropology (AB), Global Health (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Marco Marani, Nicholas School of the Environment-Earth and Ocean Sciences

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Asociacion para la Conservacion de la Cuenca Amazonica
  • Center for Amazonian Science and Innovation (CINCIA)
  • Mariana Leguia, Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru
  • Andres Lescano, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia
  • Alejandro Llanos, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia
  • Carlos Mena, Universidad San Fancisco de Quito
  • Barbara Qurollo, North Carolina State Vector Diagnostics Laboratory
  • Roydan Saah, Island Conservation