Vector-Borne Diseases

18 December 2021

A vector is any agent usually arthropods that carry and transmits an infectious agent (bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or helminths) into another living organism. Many of these vectors are bloodsucking insects, which ingest disease-producing microorganisms during a blood meal from an infected host (human or animal) and later transmit it into a new host after the pathogen has replicated. Often, once a vector becomes infectious, they are capable of transmitting the pathogen for the rest of its life during each subsequent blood meal. The vector can be biological or mechanical.


Biological vectors

The term biological vector or true vector refers to a vector that not only assists in the transfer of parasites but the parasites undergo development or multiplication in their body as well. Examples of true vectors are:

  • Mosquitoes: Malaria, Filariasis, Viral hemorrhagic fevers
  • Sandflies:  kala-azar
  • Tsetse flies: Sleeping sickness
  • Reduviid bug: Chagas disease
  • Ticks: Babesiosis, Ticks-borne relapsing fever

Mechanical vectors

Mechanical vectors assist the transfer of parasites but are not essential in their lifecycle for example houseflies and animals. Animals can be domestic or wild.

Domestic Animals

  • Cow, e.g. Taenia saginata,  Sarcocystis
  • Pigs: Taenia solium, Trichinella spiralis
  • Dogs: e.g. Echinococcus granulosus
  • Cats: Toxoplasma, Opisthorchis

Wild Animals

  • Wild game animals, e.g. trypanosomiasis
  • Wild felines, e.g. Paragonimus westermani
  • Wild carnivore animals like raccoons, skunks, wolves, foxes, and bats carry the rabies virus. Domestic mammals cats, cattle, and dogs can also get rabies.
  • Fish, e.g. fish tapeworm
  • Molluscs, e.g. liver flukes
  • Copepods, e.g. guinea worm

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Vector-borne diseases (VBD) account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than 700,000 deaths annually around the world. According to the World Health Organization Global Burden of Disease study in 2004, 7.77% of all human mortality due to infectious diseases was associated with vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and neglected tropical diseases. The burden of these diseases is highest in tropical and subtropical areas where access to safe drinking water and sanitation system is poor. Mosquitoes cause more death than any other disease vector.

Other diseases such as Chikungunya, leishmaniasis, and lymphatic filariasis cause chronic suffering, life-long morbidity, disability, and occasional stigmatization.

There is no proper treatment and vaccines are available for a few of them only. Control of vectors is often and sometimes the only way of protection from these destructive diseases.

Many of these VBDs are preventable. Disease burden can be reduced or eliminated by improving sanitation, safe drinking water, public education, and awareness.

A list of the most important vector-borne diseases globally, infectious agents, and  their vectors are as follows:

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Mosquito-Borne Diseases

DiseasesVectorsInfectious Agents
P. Malarie, P. Vivax, P. Ovale)
Dengue feverAe. aegypti
Ae Albopticus
Chikungunya FeverAe. aegypti
Ae. Albopticus
Zika FeverAedes aegyptiFlavivirus
West Nile fever
Culex -modestus West Nile Virus
Rift Valley Fever
Viral encephalitisculexTogaviruses and
Lymphedema, hydrocele
Culicine and
Wuchereria bancrofti
and Brugia malayi filaria
Yellow feverAe. aegyptiFlavivirus

Fly-borne Diseases

DiseasesVectorsInfectious Agents
Dysenteries, enteric fever,
Amoebiasis, helminth-
infections, anthrax, Tularemia,
cholera, Trachoma,
tropical ulcer
House flies
(Musca and Tabinda)
Enteric bacteria, Entamoeba-
histolytica, bacillus anthracis,
Francisella tularensis-
bacterium, Vibrio cholera,
Chlamydia trachomatis
Oriental sore,
Sandfly fever)
Phlebotomine sandfliesLeishmania
( A protozoan)
(river blindness)
Simulium fly
(black fly)
Onchocerca volvulus
(Nematodes )
LoiasisChrysops flyLoa loa filaria
(eye worm)
Sleeping sickness
(African Trypanosomiasis)
Tsetse flyTrypanosoma
(A protozoan)

Carrion’s disease
Phlebotomine sandfliesBartonella bacilliformis
Streptococcal dermatitis,
Oscind flyStreptococci

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Flea-Borne Diseases

DiseasesVectorsInfectious Agents
Bubonic PlaqueOriental Rat Flea
(Xenopsylla cheopis)
Yersinia pestis
Endemic Typhus Fever
(Murine Typhus)
Oriental Rat Flea
(Xenopsylla cheopis
Rickettsial typhi,
R. felis
TularemiaFlea and Ticks Francisella tularensis

Tick-Borne Diseases

DiseasesVectorsInfectious Agents
Rocky Mountain Spotted-
Ixodid tick
(hard tick)
Rickettsia rickettsii
TularemiaTicks, Fleas and
Francisella tularensis
Human babesiosisIxodid tickBabesia microti,
B. divergens
Tick paralysis Ixodid Holocyclus
female tick
Holocyclotoxin of
I Holocyclus
female tick
Q (query) feverSoft ticksCoxiella burnettii
Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever
Soft ticks
and lice
Borrelia recurrentis
Lyme Disease
I ricinus
(deer tick)
I persulcatus
Borrelia burgdorferi,
Borrelia mayonii
Viral fevers and
hemorrhagic fevers
Ixodid tickArboviruses
kyasanur Forest Disease
Haemaphysalis spinigera
kyasanur Forest
Disease virus
Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF)
Ixodid tickBunyavirus
Tick borne encephalitis (TBE)I ricinus
(deer tick)
EhrlichiosisAmblyomma americanum
(Lone star tick)
Ehrlichia chaffeensis

Louse-Borne Diseases

DiseasesVectorsInfectious Agents
Epidemic Typhus FeverliceRickettsia prowazekii
Louse -Borne Relapsing Feverlice and TicksBorrelia recurrentis
Trench FeverliceRickettsia quintana

Mites (chiggers) and other vector-borne Disease

DiseasesVectorsInfectious Agents
Mite-Borne or
Scrub Typhus Fever
Trombiculid MitesRickettsia tsutsugamushi
RickettsialpoxLiponyssoides sanguineus
Rickettsia akari
Chagas Disease
(South American trypanosomiasis)
Triatomine bug
(Reduviid bug or Kissing bug)
Trypanosoma cruzi
( A protozoan)
Guinea worm disease

Dracunculus medinensis
Freshwater snailsSchistosoma

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