- by Gary Finnegan

Mosquito-borne diseases: experts unite to fight dengue and Zika

Image of the Aedes moqsuito. Public health organizations are uniting to stop the disease it spreads.

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Public health organizations are uniting in a stance against the world’s deadliest creature. Four leading institutions working on dengue prevention and control have joined forces to take on one of the world’s most dangerous creatures – the dreaded Aedes mosquito.

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The International Vaccine Institute (IVI), the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins University, the Partnership for Dengue Control Foundation (PDC) and the Sabin Vaccine Institute have announced a new global alliance.

Their mission: to integrate approaches to fighting dengue and other diseases spread by the Aedes mosquito, including Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Named the Global Dengue and Aedes-transmitted Diseases Consortium (GDAC), is designed to improve coordination of the currently fragmented efforts to control mosquito-borne illnesses.

Uniting fragmented leadership

“Dengue has emerged as one of the most important infectious diseases over the past 40 years, today infecting 400 million people worldwide each year in over 100 countries,” said Dr. In-Kyu Yoon, Deputy Director General of Science at the International Vaccine Institute and now Director of GDAC. “Efforts to reverse this trend have fallen short for many reasons, but limited funding, lack of effective tools, and fragmented leadership have been among the most important.”

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The rapid spread of Zika and chikungunya have proven to be a timely reminder that Aedes-transmitted diseases will continue to spread as irreversible global trends such as population growth, urbanization and globalization continue to provide the ideal conditions to promote the spread of these diseases.

“We need a global, unified strategy to prevent and control known and as yet unknown Aedes-transmitted diseases,” Dr. Yoon said.

New tools

While dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses pose a serious public health risk, there are reasons to be optimistic. New tools are emerging fast, including the first dengue vaccine, new innovations in dengue control and advances in diagnostics. One of the goals of GDAC will be to devise an integrated approach that gets the most out of new technologies.

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“We propose to provide the leadership for integrated program implementation under one umbrella, working closely with the WHO and international funders, to reverse the trend of expanding epidemic dengue and other Aedes-transmitted viruses as public health problems,” said Prof. Duane J Gubler, Chairperson of GDAC and Prof. Emeritus of the Program in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duke-NUS Medical School.

“While much has been achieved in the past decade in developing new tools, it is unlikely that any of these new tools will be successful in controlling these diseases when used alone,” Prof Gubler said.