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Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a neglected disease caused by trypanosomatid protozoa in the genus Leishmania, which is transmitted by phlebotomine sandflies. Although this vector-borne disease has been eliminated in several regions of China during the last century, the reported human VL cases have rebounded in Western and Central China in recent decades. However, understanding of the spatial epidemiology of the disease remains vague, as the spatial risk factors driving the spatial heterogeneity of VL. In this study, we analyzed the spatiotemporal patterns of annual human VL cases in Western and Central China from 2007 to 2017. Based on the related spatial maps, the boosted regression tree (BRT) model was adopted to explore the relationships between VL and spatial correlates as well as predicting both the existing and potential infection risk zones of VL in Western and Central China. The mined links reveal that elevation, minimum temperature, relative humidity, and annual accumulated precipitation make great contributions to the spatial heterogeneity of VL. The maps show that Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Gansu, western Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Sichuan are predicted to fall in the highest infection risk zones of VL. Approximately 61.60 million resident populations lived in the high-risk regions of VL in Western and Central China. Our results provide a better understanding of how spatial risk factors driving VL spread as well as identifying the potential endemic risk region of VL, thereby enhancing the biosurveillance capacity of public health authorities.

Original publication




Journal article


Sci Total Environ

Publication Date





Neglected diseases, Public health, Spatial risk factors, Spatiotemporal patterns, Visceral leishmaniasis, Animals, China, Humans, Leishmaniasis, Visceral, Neglected Diseases, Psychodidae, Risk Factors