Research Topic

Emerging and Re-emerging Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases

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Background: Emerging infectious diseases (EID) have posed a recurring threat to human civilizations throughout history. The list of emerging infections continues to grow with a diverse set of pathogens against which we have inadequate counter measures. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is perhaps the EID ...

Background: Emerging infectious diseases (EID) have posed a recurring threat to human civilizations throughout history. The list of emerging infections continues to grow with a diverse set of pathogens against which we have inadequate counter measures. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is perhaps the EID that defines our times, taking well over a decade before rates of new infection could be curbed following identification of the etiologic agent in 1983. Deep study of most EID reveals the intricate complexity and connectedness of humans, animals, pathogens, vectors, and environ. Ongoing outbreaks of Ebola and Lassa fever emphasize how population expansion may create niches and opportunity for infectious disease emergence. Globalization can bring people and pathogen together as rapid as ever in various ways. Factors such as unplanned urbanization, global warming, social disparities, and other ecologic conditions also add fuel to the fire for what may be the next EID – a coronavirus, avian influenza, or a yet unknown viral agent. Though smallpox and polio give rare examples of highly successful public health efforts to overcome the challenges of infectious diseases, the translation and implementation of scientific research and discovery remains critical.

The tick- and mosquito-borne RNA viruses (arboviruses) comprise an important and interesting subgroup of EID. The recent Zika epidemic that swept across large parts of Latin America unveiled previously unrecognized phenotypes of birth defects and sexual transmission. The steady expansion of dengue the last few decades illustrates how challenging it can be to combat even a familiar problem. The potential for these viruses to quickly evolve alarming traits is exemplified by chikungunya, in which a single amino acid mutation in the glycoprotein confers greater fitness in an additional Aedes mosquito vector that substantially expands the geographic range of infections. Arboviruses have exposed several shortcomings of our current knowledge and public health systems in contending with EID. The difficulty in predicting the next outbreak makes for tough decisions in policy and finance, which can lead to diversion of funds and efforts away from important public health priorities. However, more investment and investigation is precisely what is needed. Traditional programs to develop diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics are critical, but innovative approaches to prevent outbreaks and work to implement existing tools and novel technologies as well as optimize delivery and cost-effectiveness should also be supported. Thus, translational research for EID provides the most integrative model for tackling the greatest threats to global health.

Details for authors: This research topic invites original research articles that span the translational spectrum. The goal is to highlight interesting and pivotal discoveries while creating a venue for cross-pollination among different EID camps or among those addressing distinct aspects of the same overarching public health problem or theme. Brief reports, systematic reviews, letters, opinion articles, and perspectives are also welcome.


Keywords: Vector-borne disease, Zoonotic infection, Emerging infectious diseases, Global health, epidemiology, arboviruses, RNA virus


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