Cutaneous Leishmaniasis is a zoonosis, a disease of humans that is spread by an insect vector from a rodent reservoir. Four factors that transmission of vector-borne, zoonotic diseases depends on include the arthropod vector, the pathologic agent, the reservoir, and the human host. Leishmaniasis remains one of the world’s most devastating neglected tropical diseases, causing substantial mortality and morbidity and contributing to nearly 2 million disability adjusted life years. The burden of disease from Leishmaniasis in the Middle East has an especially significant impact. One third of the cases occur in each of three regions: the Americas, the Mediterranean basin and Western Asia from Middle East to Central Asia. But the Middle East stands out. Five of the 10 countries holding 70 to 75% of the global estimated CL cases are in the Middle East, and more than 50 percent of the world’s cases of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL) occur in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, very little information is available on the ecology of reservoirs hosts of zoonotic diseases. This study focuses on ecological factors and their roles in disease transmission of CL. The censuses and experimental work will provide a deeper understanding of the ecology of zoonoses and the link between epidemiology and ecology. Of particular interest are the links between various characteristics of the reservoir host, the vector, human behavior, and the disease. Optimal density-dependent habitat selection and movement of rock hyraxes among den sites have consequences for reservoir host distributions, sand fly densities, and rates of contact between vectors and hosts. This system offers opportunities for studying how optimal decisions of individuals cascades through a complex ecological system to determine population dynamics and species interactions. Furthermore, the results from the research may suggest new avenues for more efficient and complete disease control. Many zoonoses, including other varieties of Leishmaniasis and West Nile Virus, can be fatal. Studying CL can serve as a model for using ecological knowledge and principles to control disease. This research also can be a model for how citizen-scientists can be utilized for collecting relevant data in disease ecology quickly and extensively.