Tsetse flies (Genus: Glossina) are the sole cyclical vectors of African trypanosomoses. Despite their economic and public health impacts in sub-Saharan Africa, it has been decades since the latest distribution maps at the continental level were produced. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is trying to address this shortcoming through the Atlas of tsetse and African animal trypanosomosis.
For the tsetse component of the Atlas, a geospatial database is being assembled which comprises information on the distribution and trypanosomal infection of Glossina species. Data are identified through a systematic literature review. Field data collected since January 1990 are included, with a focus on occurrence, apparent density and infection rates of tsetse flies. Mapping is carried out at the level of site/location. For tsetse distribution, the database includes such ancillary information items as survey period, trap type, attractant (if any), number of traps deployed in the site and the duration of trapping (in days). For tsetse infection, the sampling and diagnostic methods are also recorded.
As a proof of concept, tsetse distribution data for three pilot countries (Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda) were compiled from 130 peer-reviewed publications, which enabled tsetse occurrence to be mapped in 1266 geographic locations. Maps were generated for eight tsetse species (i.e. G. brevipalpis, G. longipennis, G. fuscipes fuscipes, G. tachinoides, G. pallidipes, G. morsitans submorsitans, G. austeni and G. swynnertoni). For tsetse infection rates, data were identified in 25 papers, corresponding to 91 sites.
A methodology was developed to assemble a geo-spatial database on the occurrence, apparent density and trypanosomal infection of Glossina species, which will enable continental maps to be generated. The methodology is suitable for broad brush mapping of all tsetse species of medical and veterinary public health importance. For a few tsetse species, especially those having limited economic importance and circumscribed geographic distribution (e.g. fusca group), recently published information is scanty or non-existent. Tsetse-infested countries can adopt and adapt this approach to compile national Atlases, which ought to draw also on the vast amount of unpublished information.