Global Climate Change and what History tells us about the Risk of New Vector-Borne Pathogens being introduced into the United States

Speaker: Dr. Michael Turell recently retired as a principal investigator at USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases) where he had served for more than 30 years.

The introduction and spread of West Nile virus and the recent introduction of Chikungunya and Zika viruses into the Americas have raised concern about the potential for various “tropical” pathogens to become established in North America. A historical analysis of yellow fever and malaria incidences in the United States suggests that it is not merely a temperate climate that keeps these pathogens from becoming established. Instead, socioeconomic changes are the most likely explanation for why these pathogens essentially disappeared from the United States, but yet remain a problem in tropical areas. In contrast to these anthroponotic pathogens that require humans in their transmission cycle, zoonotic pathogens are only slightly affected by socioeconomics (standard of living).

Dr. Turell’s principal interest has been the study of factors affecting the ability of mosquitoes to transmit various arboviruses.  He has evaluated the potential of selected arthropods to transmit pathogens such as Rift Valley fever, Eastern Equine encephalitis, Venezuelan Equine encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses.   In addition, he has conducted research on the development of vaccines for several mosquito-borne viruses and the development and evaluation of antigen and RNA detection assays.