The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced a bold step to enhance public health preparedness for diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks in the nation’s Southwest. With an $8 million grant from the CDC, University of California researchers from the Davis and Riverside campuses will launch the Pacific Southwest Regional Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases later this month.
“The southwestern U.S. is facing many new challenges in recent years from invasive mosquitoes and emerging pathogens, such as Zika virus, and we urgently need better options for their control,” said Chris Barker, UC Davis epidemiologist and center co-director. “Funding for this center will enable important research to optimize the tools we have and to look for new ways forward, while training the next generation of public health scientists.”
Drawing on just one area of science is not going to be sufficient for addressing the challenges presented by vector-borne diseases, which is the strength of the collaboration between the two UC campuses. Both are top-tier research and teaching institutions with leading experts in vector-borne diseases, including entomologists, epidemiologists, virologists and computer scientists who train a diverse group of scholars interested in public health.
According UC Riverside entomologist William Walton, center co-director, “This center of excellence will bring together researchers using the latest cutting-edge approaches in the laboratory and field, with practitioners protecting public health to develop a community of practice and provide new technologies to prevent the occurrence of vector-borne diseases.”
The center’s funding begins later this month and continues through the end of 2021. The center has three specific goals:
- Conduct applied research to develop and test effective prevention and control tools to anticipate and respond to vector-borne disease outbreaks.
- Train vector biologists, entomologists and physicians in the knowledge and skills required to address vector-borne disease concerns.
- Strengthen and expand existing collaboration among academic communities and public health organizations at the federal, state and local levels.
UC Davis and UC Riverside already have strong collaborations with the California Department of Public Health and the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California, which will be critical partners in the center.
“The CDC’s support will enable us to build on these partnerships to ensure that our region of the U.S. will be ready to respond to future threats from vector-borne diseases,” Barker said.