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The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to one of the largest and most biologically diverse rain forests in the world, featuring an incredible variety of animals including bonobos, forest elephants, and mountain gorillas. The country is also the stomping ground of a staggering array of microbial organisms and the region is well known as a wellspring of novel human pathogens, some with big household names and others little known. Some of these diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, have emerged as recognizably major pandemics; others, such as Ebola virus, have been limited to small, localized outbreaks; others still, such as the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus, pose the risk of becoming new threats to global health.
“Time and again DR Congo has shown us how this nation represents the cradle of a number of important emerging and reemerging viral infections, including some with pandemic potential.”
Amidst the emergence of novel viruses, the country’s 70 million residents battle some of the highest rates of infections caused by more familiar tropical pathogens. These include some of mankind’s most ancient microbial adversaries: malaria, leprosy, cholera, typhoid and human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). It’s a depressing record: the country is considered to have the highest number of leprosy cases in Africa, and ranks second or third in the world for the highest number of cases of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
The geographic distribution showing reported cases of
human Chikungunya virus infections, a disease spread by mosquitoes.