Infectious diseases pose a significant medical risk to military personnel during missions. High infection rates are associated with severe illnesses and a high number of lost person-days. A considerable percentage is caused by vector-borne pathogens transmitted mainly by mosquitoes, sand flies and ticks. Common vector-borne pathogens include the mosquito-borne West Nile virus and Dengue virus, the sand fly borne phleboviruses and protozoan parasites Leishmania spp., or the tick-borne Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, among others.
Seroprevalence studies conducted in collaboration of the BMLV (ÖBH) with the Institute of Specific Prophylaxis and Tropical Medicine (ISPTM) of the Medical University of Vienna have proven the contact of Austrian soldiers with phleboviruses and Leishmania spp. However, the actual risk of infection during missions with these pathogens and others has not yet been clarified.
The planned study “ArthroVek” aims to assess the mosquito, sand fly and tick fauna and associated pathogens in the operational areas Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) of the Austrian Armed Forces (ÖBH) to evaluate the potential risk of infection for soldiers.
Extensive longitudinal field surveys are scheduled over two trapping seasons in the operational areas – altogether six weeks each in both operational areas. Trapped specimens will be identified to species and then screened for the presence of viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogens using established polymerase chain reaction (PCR)- based methods.
The key project outcome will be to prepare a table of actions for preparation of the battlefield and correct application of specific prophylaxis based on these data. The overall project goal is to minimize the risk of infection of soldiers of the Austrian Armed Forces with vector-borne pathogens during military missions in Kosovo and BIH.