Global Research in Tunisia

Country Information

Tunisia is in Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya.

General Health Information

The health priorities in Tunisia include vector-borne diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, and dengue fever. Climate change in Tunisia may be contributing factors to the resurgence of these vector-borne diseases, and the rise in temperature may also exacerbate respiratory diseases. 

NIAID-Funded Activities

There is currently one NIAID-funded research project in Tunisia. The project focuses on the topic of Leishmaniasis, specifically on Zoonotic Cutaneous Leishmaniosis (ZCL), a vector-bore disease transmitted by the bites of phlebotomine sand flies. The fat sand rat and the desert's gird are the main reservoir hosts of this parasite. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is considered by the WHO to be a neglected tropical disease, affecting about 1.5 million people per year worldwide. In Tunisia, ZCL is a peridomestic disease endemic in rural areas with low socio-economic status with an annual incidence rate of 669.7/100,000 per year.  Although ZCL is not fatal, the lesions produced may cause substantial disfigurement and severe distress to infected individuals with lifelong psychological and social consequences. There is no vaccine available and treatment is largely based on chemical therapy. This project is taking place in Tunisia for the endemicity of disease in the area, access to laboratory models and field sites for testing intervention strategies, and ability to conduct field-based research in a representative region that is stable politically. Lessons learned from this project are expected to impact public health policy authorities in the politically sensitive Middle East and North African (MENA) nations. This two-year project will develop a new approach to control ZCL transmission built upon the collaboration between the U.S. and Tunisia, with joint efforts to foster both capacity building and innovation.

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