Predicting distribution of Aedes aegypti and Culex pipiens complex, potential vectors of Rift Valley fever virus in relation to disease epidemics in East Africa


The East African region has experienced several Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreaks since the 1930s. The objective of this study was to identify distributions of potential disease vectors in relation to disease epidemics. Understanding disease vector potential distributions is a major concern for disease transmission dynamics.


Diverse ecological niche modelling techniques have been developed for this purpose: we present a maximum entropy (Maxent) approach for estimating distributions of potential RVF vectors in un-sampled areas in East Africa. We modelled the distribution of two species of mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti and Culex pipiens complex) responsible for potential maintenance and amplification of the virus, respectively. Predicted distributions of environmentally suitable areas in East Africa were based on the presence-only occurrence data derived from our entomological study in Ngorongoro District in northern Tanzania.


Our model predicted potential suitable areas with high success rates of 90.9% for A. aegypti and 91.6% for C. pipiens complex. Model performance was statistically significantly better than random for both species. Most suitable sites for the two vectors were predicted in central and northwestern Tanzania with previous disease epidemics. Other important risk areas include western Lake Victoria, northern parts of Lake Malawi, and the Rift Valley region of Kenya.


Findings from this study show distributions of vectors had biological and epidemiological significance in relation to disease outbreak hotspots, and hence provide guidance for the selection of sampling areas for RVF vectors during inter-epidemic periods.

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