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Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory

Meeting of Florida Vector-Borne Disease Scientists

University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) are working together to make progress in addressing mosquito-borne pathogens. The FMEL is the lead organization within the EPI on issues associated with mosquito-borne pathogens and will continue to serve Florida's mosquito control and public health agencies.

On January 7, 2008, the FMEL and the EPI jointly hosted a meeting of scientists from several institutions throughout Florida with interests and expertise in studying mosquito-borne pathogens. There were more than 60 scientists attending representing the FMEL, EPI, University of Florida's College of Veterinary Sciences, University of Florida's Whitney Laboratory in St. Augustine, USDA Center for Medical, Agriculture and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, University of South Florida, University of Miami, Florida's Department of Health, Florida Mosquito Control Association, American Mosquito Control Association, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Indian River Mosquito Control, Anastasia Mosquito Control, Collier Mosquito Control, Lee County Mosquito Control, and St. Lucie County Mosquito Control.

The purpose of this meeting was to gather Florida's expertise together to begin discussions that will lead to new collaborations on high priority issues to reduce and control mosquito-borne diseases in Florida, the U.S., and throughout the world. The wealth of expertise attending the meeting was impressive demonstrating that Florida is a leader in addressing mosquito-borne disease issues. There were short presentations describing the expertise and current efforts of several of the participating organizations. Discussions provided items that were identified as areas where research in Florida could make significant impact on vector-borne disease transmission systems.

Many research issues and priority needs were identified that are of interest to Florida mosquito control. These included:

  • The risk of the importation of new pathogens into the state.
  • Endemic / exotic risk and impact from mosquito-borne pathogens.
  • The effects of global warming and climate change.
  • Is it possible to have a major epidemic due to an arbovirus or malaria in Florida?
  • The improvement of current notification systems and rapid diagnosis.
  • Mosquito-borne pathogens of major concern include DENV, CHIKV, EEEV, RFV, SLEV, WNV, VEEV.
  • Basic biological, ecological, and epidemiological studies of reservoir hosts and vectors.
  • The importance of improved surveillance.
  • The impact of pest insects on human health and individual reaction to mosquito bites.
  • Interspecific interactions of pathogens.
  • Effects of zoonotic mosquito-borne pathogens on livestock and wildlife.
  • Bioterrorism.

These issues translated into some identified priority issues for research with recognition that the collaborators will need to identify audiences, stakeholders, and potential sources of funding to support the research. Some specific issues relevant to Florida that need to be pursued include:

  • Disease surveillance, diagnostics, control, and prevention.
  • Evaluation of the true risk represented by each pathogen.
  • Accurate and population-sensitive range maps for vectors in Florida.
  • Studies dealing with vector behavior, ecology, epidemiology, and vector competence.
  • Extension of surveillance programs into the Caribbean where new pathogens that threaten Florida may originate.


Participants addressed the need for vector control training that could be provided by organizations like the FMEL, EPI, and other Florida Universities. The training already available in Florida provided by the Florida Mosquito Control Association Dodd Short Courses, the Mosquito Fly-In, and FMEL training courses like Advanced Mosquito ID were recognized as excellent and these were ready to expand to include the expertise represented at the workshop. The following ideas show the potential for future training opportunities in Florida using the collective expertise of the participants:

  • The FMEL Advanced Mosquito ID Course.
  • The FMEL Advanced Mosquito Biology course via distance learning.
  • An NSF Center for Excellence on mosquito-borne pathogens and their control with vector control training opportunities.
  • Training in grant writing, grant submissions by Florida collaborating organizations, i.e., other universities, mosquito control organizations, Florida Department of Health, FL Dept Agriculture and Consumer Services, and in developing countries.
  • A Florida Biology of Disease Vectors Course with contributions and shared expertise of all participants in Florida for graduate students, senior scientists, and mosquito control and public health professionals in Florida, the U.S. and the world.

Florida mosquito control through the FMCA and its legislative committee provided support for the concept of the EPI that resulted in the state funding for the institute. The Florida legislature recognized the importance of mosquito-borne pathogens in Florida as one of the reasons for funding the EPI, and consequently the EPI recognizes that mosquito control issues facing Florida are of a high priority. The workshop in Vero Beach was Florida's first step toward greater progress on our shared concerns. The shared excitement and enthusiasm resulting from this first meeting was apparent. Future meetings are in the planning stage and it was agreed that at a future meeting a workshop will be held where participants will include Florida mosquito control district representatives.

Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D. - Retired
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of Florida/IFAS/Vero Beach, Florida