Arthropod-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and the Zika virus, seem to be emerging and re-emerging at an alarming rate in the last few years. In this post, we discuss how the technological progress and promise of modern medicine and biotechnology, which has saved countless lives already, contrasts with the continual problems caused by the rapid changes in our world, the lack of political will to provide funding to develop new and implement existing solutions, and the simple lack of public awareness and support.
Mosquitoes, ticks and other biting arthropods, and the pathogens associated with them, causing arthropod-borne diseases, have always been the most dangerous enemies of mankind. Watching the news and browsing the internet, it seems like the situation is getting worse. In Latin America, chikungunya arrived in the winter of 2013, and quickly spread in the footsteps of dengue, utilizing Aedes aegypti as it’s perfect vector. In 2014, it was followed by Zika virus, which in addition to non-specific symptoms, is responsible for causing microcephaly and other birth defects in infected newborns, as well as Guillen-Barre syndrome in adults. In North America, West Nile virus is firmly embedded in the ecosystem, the ticks that transmit Lyme disease are expanding their range, and other tick-borne pathogens such as anaplasmosis and babeosis are expanding. In the Balkans, we have a growing problem of Lumpy Skin Disease slowly creeping up towards Eastern Europe, while African Swine Fever is attempting to invade from Russia. In Southern Europe, and the Mediterranean, we have a growing number of arboviruses and other pathogens emerging, such as chikungunya and even Plasmodium vivax emerging in Greece. Finally in Africa, despite having a vaccine available, we have the largest yellow fever outbreak of the century, threatening to spill over to distant locations such as China.
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