Vector Born Diseases: Prevalence and Prevention

by Tracy Hartman

May 31, 2018

Are you doing enough to prevent tick, mosquito and other vector borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever? According to the CDC, since 2004, the number of reported cases of disease from tick, mosquito and flea bites have more than tripled. From 2004 to 2016 there were over 600,000 cases of vector transmitted infections in the United States and those are just the cases the CDC knows about! Nine new diseases have been introduced into the United States in that time frame due to commerce rapidly moving the insects around the world, infected people traveling globally, and an increase in average temperature allowing the bugs to inhabit areas they normally wouldn't survive.

Recent reports of Lonestar ticks, usually found in the eastern United States, being identified in Denver and Longhorned ticks, typically found East Asia and Australia, now appearing in New Jersey, offer proof that insects are being transported around the country and the world. Officials still do not know how the Longhorned tick entered the country and despite a frigid winter in 2017, the ticks are thriving. These ticks infest the infrastructure and habitats around homes (like those beautiful lakes and ponds that we love to build our homes next to or spend vacation time visiting), which can sustain new insects year-round. According to the CDC’s Division of Vector-Bourne Diseases, "mosquito-borne diseases tend to get worse during heat waves; increasing environmental temperatures are making the bloodsuckers more infectious by allowing them to carry more viruses," such as Zika and Dengue. Warmer temperatures are also allowing tick and mosquito species to expand their ranges further to the north, emerge earlier after the winter cold, and persist in new areas that previously were inhospitable habitats for the insects.

Increased public awareness to the problem of the pests and the diseases they carry is crucial. Were you able to identify the 5 ticks on the poppy seed muffin recently posted by the CDC? This was a slightly disturbing new way to look at poppy seeds, but also an effective way to get the conversation started and highlight the need to monitor against tick bites. Additionally, 80% of vector control organizations lack critical prevention and control capacities, such as testing insects for pesticide resistance.  More proven and publicly accepted treatments to control mosquito, flea and tick populations and prevent their disease spread, are required. And yes, this means using more safe and effective insect repelling agents around your home and on your body.

With the rise in reported cases of vector-born diseases and the spread of insect populations to new habitats worldwide, new therapeutic and prevention products are also needed to protect infected individuals against emerging diseases. As highlighted by the recent, rapid and global spread of Zika virus, the risk is real. ImQuest BioSciences has tools available to develop therapeutic products against a variety of vector borne diseases. Contact us to learn more about our suite of services, including initial efficacy screening, range of action and combination therapy analysis, and resistance selection services.

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