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The Emerging Threat of Dengue, Other Tropical Diseases

Three experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) recently joined Research!America for an alliance discussion on the rising threat of dengue fever and other tropical diseases, both globally and here in the U.S. Dr. David Fitter, Director, Division of Global Migration Health, Dr. Monica Parise, Deputy Director for Science and Program, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, and Dr. Lyle Petersen, Director, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases each shared the concerns and perspectives of their departments on current threats. Here is a short Q&A based off their discussion:  

Q: What are some the factors behind the spread of these diseases? 

A: “For one, the world is increasingly crowded. It’s estimated there will be 11 million people, many of whom live in megacities encompassing 10 million or more inhabitants. The world is also increasingly connected. One can almost travel to any major urban center in the world within the incubation period of most infectious diseases, and there are 2.75 billion airline passengers globally. Supply chains are increasingly global, touching 50% of fresh fruit, 80% of seafood, and 80% of active drug components. In many cases, worlds that used to be separate are now converging. For example, the worlds of animals, agriculture, and humans are converging, which is what’s known as spillover where infections in the environment now spill over.” – Dr.  Petersen  

Q: What is the strategy for preventing vector-borne diseases (VBD):  

A: “We have 17 collaborating federal agencies, all working together to develop this national strategy. […] We have the national public health strategy for vector-borne diseases. It outlines a vision: a nation where VBD no longer threatens human health & well-being with a mission of protecting people from illness, suffering, & death due to VBD. It outlined five basic goals […]: to better understand where people are getting infected, better evaluate tools and methods to diagnose them, better come up with ways to deal with them and treat them, and finally to develop national capacity to control them.” – Dr.  Petersen 

Q: How is research addressing Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs):  

A: We’re also addressing the threat of NTDs, both globally and in the United States, via innovation and research. I’ve just listed a few impactful examples that I’ll mention. We’ve developed a multiplex immunized immunoassay that can detect antibodies for over 30 different infectious disease agents, providing a very cost-effective way for countries to assess burden and conduct evidence-based decision[-making]. We evaluate new tools to address vectors especially Malaria […]. We’re also looking at better methods of larval control and housing modification, as well as [] vector genetic work including prior preservation of mosquito larvae and embryos, which can advance research for both CDC as well as a variety of partners. And we’re working to improve or modernize our serologic tests.” – Dr. Parise 

Watch the full discussion.