List of diseases spread by invertebrates

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Invertebrates are very common vectors of disease. A vector is an organism which spreads disease from one host to another. Invertebrates spread bacterial, viral and protozoan pathogens by two main mechanisms. Either via their bite, as in the case of malaria spread by mosquitoes, or via their faeces, as in the case of Chagas' Disease spread by Triatoma bugs or epidemic typhus spread by human body lice.

Many invertebrates are responsible for transmitting diseases. Mosquitoes are perhaps the best known invertebrate vector and transmit a wide range of tropical diseases including malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever. Another large group of vectors are flies. Sandfly species transmit the disease leishmaniasis, by acting as vectors for protozoan Leishmania species, and tsetse flies transmit protozoan trypansomes (Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypansoma brucei rhodesiense) which cause African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). Ticks and lice form another large group of invertebrate vectors. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme Disease, is transmitted by ticks and members of the bacterial genus Rickettsia are transmitted by lice. For example, the human body louse transmits the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii which causes epidemic typhus.

Although invertebrate-transmitted diseases pose a particular threat on the continents of Africa, Asia and South America, there is one way of controlling invertebrate-borne diseases, which is by controlling the invertebrate vector. For example, one way of controlling malaria is to control the mosquito vector through the use of mosquito nets, which prevent mosquitoes from coming into contact with humans.

This is a list of diseases spread by invertebrates.


Disease Vector Causative organism Host Symptoms Area Treatment
African horse sickness Culicoid midge Orbivirus (virus) Equids Fever, lung, heart or mucous membrane symptoms. Europe, Africa Vaccination
Babesiosis Tick Babesia (protozoan) Humans, rodents, dogs, cattle Fever, hemolytic anemia, chills, sweating, thrombocytopenia South Europe, Central United States Antibiotics
Bluetongue disease Culicoid midge Orbivirus (virus) Cattle, sheep Fever, salivation, swelling of face and tongue Europe, Africa Vaccination
Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) Various assassin bugs of subfamily Triatominae Trypanosoma cruzi (protozoan) Mild symptoms, then chronic heart or brain inflammation Central and South America Antiparasitic drugs; treatment of symptoms
Chikungunya Mosquito Chikungunya virus Human Abdomen pain, eye pain, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, chills, fatigue, headache, skin rash Asia Antibiotics
Dengue fever Mosquito Flavivirus (virus) Fever then arthritis (Sub) tropics and South Europe Observation/supportive treatment
Dirofilariasis Mosquito Dirofilaria Dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, cats, seals, sea lions, muskrats, bears, rabbits, raccoons, reptiles, beavers, ferrets, monkeys, Chest pain, fever, pleural effusion, cough, nodules under the skin or lung granulomas Worldwide Heartworm medicine
Tick-borne encephalitis Tick Tick-borne encephalitis virus Ill with flu then meningitis Central and North Europe prevention and vaccination
Heartland virus disease Tick Heartland virus Fever, lethargy, headache, myalgia, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, anorexia, thrombocytopenia, leukopenia, arthralgia Missouri and Tennessee, USA Supportive treatment
Leishmaniasis Sandfly Leishmania (protozoan) Fever, damage to the spleen and liver, and anaemia South hemisphere and Mediterranean Countries Treatment of infected
Lyme disease Tick Borrelia burgdorferi (bacterium) Deer, human Bull's-eye pattern skin rash around bite, fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, joint pain. Sometimes neurological problems.[1] Europe, North Africa, and North America Prevention and antibiotics
Malaria Mosquito Plasmodium (protist) Human Headache then heavy fever (Sub) tropics Prevention and anti-malaria
Plague Flea Rats, Human Prevention and Antibiotics
Pogosta disease
Karelian fever
Ockelbo disease
Sindbis fever
Mosquito Sindbis virus Skin rash, fever, in severe cases - arthritis Scandinavia, France, Russia unknown
Rickettsial diseases:
Boutonneuse fever
African tick bite fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever etc.
Tick, mite, lice Rickettsia species (bacteria) Fever with bleeding around the bite Global Prevention and antibiotics
Tularemia Deer flies, ticks Francisella tularensis (bacterium) Birds, lagomorphs, rodents Skin ulcer, swollen and painful lymph glands, fever, chills headache, exhaustion North America Streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline, ciprofloxacin
African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) Tsetse fly Trypanosoma brucei (protozoan) Wild mammals, cattle, human Fever, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, sleep disturbances Sub-Saharan Africa Various drugs
Lymphatic filariasis Mosquito Wuchereria bancrofti Human Fever, swelling of limbs, breasts, or genitalia Africa, Asia. Various drugs
West Nile fever Mosquito West Nile virus Birds, human Fever, headaches, skin rash, body aches. Africa, Asia, North America, South and East Europe None
Yellow fever Mosquito Yellow fever virus Human Muscle pain, abdomen pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, jaundice, fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, delirium South America, Africa Yellow fever vaccine
Zika fever Mosquito Zika virus Monkeys, human Fever, eye pain, conjunctivitis, rash, headache, vomiting, joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, chills, sweating, loss of appetite South America, Mexico, Asia, Africa Decreasing mosquito bites, condoms

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