Hartford, Connecticut, February 28, 2018—Trinity College Professor of Anthropology James A. Trostle is a co-principal investigator on a research study that has received a grant award of $2,666,768 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The University of Michigan is the primary grantee, with $209,745 designated for Trinity College. The grant, supporting research launched in September 2017, will run until September 2021.
Trostle (pictured, left) joins Joseph Eisenberg, the principal investigator from University of Michigan, and a team of scientists from Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, Emory University, Universidad Central del Ecuador, University of California Berkeley, as well as others from University of Michigan. As a co-principal investigator, Trostle is responsible for coordinating the collection of the social and cultural data required for the project.
The project, Zika and Dengue Co-Circulation Under Environmental Change and Urbanization, will examine the development and the spread of two diseases—Zika and Dengue, both infectious diseases transmitted by the same mosquito species. The project builds on Trostle’s prior research into infectious diseases and represents the fifth in a series of larger research projects Trostle has conducted in Ecuador.
There have been more than 1.5 million cases of Zika reported worldwide since its recent emergence. Dengue infects more than 50 million people worldwide each year but does not cause the same symptoms seen in Zika. The spread of both viruses will be studied to provide insight into the impacts that economic development and, ultimately, urbanization have on the transmission of these infectious diseases. Key to intervention to limit the spread of the disease is understanding the construction of new roads and their impact on the social network structure and movement of residents in previously rural communities in the Ecuadorian province of Esmeraldas in northern coastal Ecuador.
Trostle, a Trinity College faculty member since 1998 and adjunct professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Chile since 2015, has spent close to two decades studying the relationship between diseases and their transmission in rural and urban communities. His work in epidemiology has spanned more than 25 countries in his career.
The ultimate goal of the team’s work is to better understand how diseases move across landscapes. “Horses, canoes, or on foot,” Trostle said, “That’s how people got around before. Now with the construction of a road, how will this impact the health of that community?” Trostle noted that remoteness matters to disease rates, and in previous studies, the more remote villages were, the healthier they were. This study will help to explore social relationships that develop with more connectivity between people and villages, and how this interaction influences the transmission of diseases.
The NIH funding is the fifth substantial grant this project has received, adding to previous funding from NIH and the National Science Foundation. This grant, in addition to covering Trostle’s time and travel to Michigan and Ecuador, will engage Trinity students through two student research stipends per year, including one expenses-paid trip to Ecuador for summer research. Trostle was enthusiastic about the benefits for students who work on this endeavor, saying, “This type of study demands a level of detail in interviewing and observation that will help students involved to be better researchers and develop other critical skills.” The funds from the NIH grant will allow up to eight Trinity students to become intimately involved in the project over four years.