UTMB leading new international center for anticipating and countering mosquito-borne diseases

GALVESTON, Texas – Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have received more than $7.7 million from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases to spearhead a Center to identify, track and counter mosquito-borne diseases.

The Coordinating Research on Emerging Arboviral Threats Encompassing the Neotropics (CREATE-NEO) center will integrate surveillance of mosquito-borne viruses, also called arboviruses, across Central and South America with predictive modeling in order to better anticipate and counter emergence of arboviral diseases. Once fully established, the project can quickly be redirected to address any emerging animal or vector borne disease. The center would provide important information about emerging diseases that could become a threat to the United States.

Mosquitoes are responsible for more human illness and deaths than any other living creature in the world. The information gained from the CREATE-NEO Center will forewarn local, national and global public health agencies of arboviruses within Central and South America that pose particularly high risk of transmission among people, and/or international spread.

“Our established network of partnerships at the core of CREATE-NEO has been on the forefront of studies understanding the mechanisms of arbovirus emergence and transmission for the last 20 years.” said Nikos Vasilakis, professor in the department of pathology and contact principal investigator. “We will also build local capacity to detect, predict and respond to emerging arboviruses at their point of origin, thereby maximizing the potential to avert full-blown emergence, and critically, be able to quickly redirect our efforts to address any emerging diseases.”

This need is especially critical in Central and South America, which in recent decades have experienced a spillover of arboviruses from wildlife into humans, an increase in emerging arboviruses, a resurgence of arboviruses previously controlled by vaccination or vector control and the introduction and export of arboviruses to other regions, including the United States. Increases in rates of global travel, urban expansion, deforestation and global climate change all elevate the risk of further arbovirus spread throughout the world.

The Center is a partnership among several institutions, including New Mexico State University, Faculdade de Medicina de Sa~o Jose´ do Rio Preto, Fundac¸a~o de Medicina Tropical Dr. Heitor Vieira Dourado, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso,Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

UTMB is in the unique position to have been awarded funding for 2 of the 10 Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases supported by the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.