Arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) are among the most common agents of human febrile illness worldwide and the most important emerging pathogens, causing multiple notable epidemics of human disease over recent decades. Despite the public health relevance, little is know about the geographic distribution, relative impact, and risk factors for arbovirus infection in many regions of the world. Our objectives were to describe the arboviruses associated with acute undifferentiated febrile illness in participating clinics in four countries in South America and to provide detailed epidemiological analysis of arbovirus infection in Iquitos, Peru, where more extensive monitoring was conducted.
A clinic-based syndromic surveillance system was implemented in 13 locations in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Serum samples and demographic information were collected from febrile participants reporting to local health clinics or hospitals. Acute-phase sera were tested for viral infection by immunofluorescence assay or RT-PCR, while acute- and convalescent-phase sera were tested for pathogen-specific IgM by ELISA. Between May 2000 and December 2007, 20,880 participants were included in the study, with evidence for recent arbovirus infection detected for 6,793 (32.5%). Dengue viruses (Flavivirus) were the most common arbovirus infections, totaling 26.0% of febrile episodes, with DENV-3 as the most common serotype. Alphavirus (Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus [VEEV] and Mayaro virus [MAYV]) and Orthobunyavirus (Oropouche virus [OROV], Group C viruses, and Guaroa virus) infections were both observed in approximately 3% of febrile episodes. In Iquitos, risk factors for VEEV and MAYV infection included being male and reporting to a rural (vs urban) clinic. In contrast, OROV infection was similar between sexes and type of clinic.
Our data provide a better understanding of the geographic range of arboviruses in South America and highlight the diversity of pathogens in circulation. These arboviruses are currently significant causes of human illness in endemic regions but also have potential for further expansion. Our data provide a basis for analyzing changes in their ecology and epidemiology.
Over recent decades, the variety and quantity of diseases caused by viruses transmitted to humans by mosquitoes and other arthropods (also known as arboviruses) have increased around the world. One difficulty in studying these diseases is the fact that the symptoms are often non-descript, with patients reporting such symptoms as low-grade fever and headache. Our goal in this study was to use laboratory tests to determine the causes of such non-descript illnesses in sites in four countries in South America, focusing on arboviruses. We established a surveillance network in 13 locations in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay, where patient samples were collected and then sent to a central laboratory for testing. Between May 2000 and December 2007, blood serum samples were collected from more than 20,000 participants with fever, and recent arbovirus infection was detected for nearly one third of them. The most common viruses were dengue viruses (genera Flavivirus). We also detected infection by viruses from other genera, including Alphavirus and Orthobunyavirus. This data is important for understanding how such viruses might emerge as significant human pathogens.