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Issues in public health entomology.

Abstract

Public health entomology focuses on the population biology of vector-borne infections, seeking to understand how such pathogens perpetuate over time and attempting to devise methods for reducing the burden that they impose on human health. As public health entomology passes its centennial, a series of pervasive research themes and spirited debates characterize the discipline, many reflecting a tension between field and laboratory research. In particular, institutional support for population-based research and training programs has fallen behind that for those using modern lab-based approaches. Discussion of modes of intervention against vector-borne infections (such as deployment of genetically modified vectors, the role of DDT in malaria control, host-targeted acaricides for
Lyme disease risk reduction, and truck-mounted aerosol spraying against West Nile virus transmission) illustrates the discipline’s need for strengthening population-based research programs. Even with the advent of molecular methods for describing population structure, the basis for anophelism without malaria (or its eastern North American counterpart, ixodism without borreliosis) remains elusive. Such methods have not yet been extensively used to examine the phylogeography and geographical origins of zoonoses such as
Lyme disease. Basic ecological questions remain poorly explored: What regulates vector populations? How may mixtures of pathogens be maintained by a single vector? What factors might limit the invasion of Asian mosquitoes into North American sites? Putative effects of "global warming" remain speculative given our relative inability to answer such questions. Finally, policy and administrative issues such as the "no-nits" dictum in American schools, the Roll Back Malaria program, and legal liability for risk due to vector-borne infections serve to demonstrate further the nature of the crossroads that the discipline of public health entomology faces at the start of the 21st Century.

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2001 Spring;1(1):3-19. Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.; Review [1]