In 2020, DVBD faced both vector-borne disease (VBD) threats and the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous staff from DVBD volunteered to assist with CDC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite much attention being focused on the response, DVBD accomplished many projects and milestones during the year. Here’s a look at the top accomplishments for DVBD from 2020:
In February, nearly 400 representatives from across the country, and many DVBD members, attended the first Vector Week in Fort Collins, Colorado. Lyle Petersen, Director of DVBD, presented a collective vision and strategy to battle VBDs nationally. Other CDC senior scientists, experts from state and local public health programs, and the Regional Centers of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease presented on specific challenges and opportunities for VBD prevention and control.
- Rapid detection of yellow fever is critical to preventing large scale outbreaks, yet no validated commercially-produced test previously existed. CDC scientists have been working to fill this surveillance gap by developing a kit to detect yellow fever antibodies. In April, CDC awarded a contract to ATCC, a global biological materials resource and standards organization, to produce CDC’s yellow fever virus MAC-HD kit. DVBD will continue to produce some of the raw reagents, and ATCC will format these for use in the kits, assemble them, and perform quality control for evaluation in advance of future distribution. This effort will facilitate deployment of yellow fever laboratory surveillance tools for the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics Strategyexternal icon.
- A special supplement issueexternal icon, titled Plague and Bioterrorism Preparedness, published in the May edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. This issue, spearheaded by DVBD’s Bacterial Diseases Branch, presents the results of systematic literature reviews on antimicrobial treatment of plague, plague in pregnant women, and safety of antimicrobials used for treatment and prophylaxis of plague in pregnant women. The issue also includes plague surveillance and animal study data, demonstrating efficacy of antimicrobials for plague treatment and prophylaxis. These findings will inform future guidelines on treatment and prophylaxis of plague.
On August 10, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered nootkatone, an active ingredient discovered and developed by DVBD, for use in repellents and insecticides. Nootkatone can be found in small quantities in Alaskan yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin and is already used extensively as a flavor ingredient. CDC’s work with licensed partner Evolva demonstrates that nootkatone effectively repels and kills mosquitoes and ticks at rates similar to products already on the market. The availability of a new and effective insecticide ingredient paves the way for manufacturers to develop nootkatone-based consumer products and adds another tool to combat insecticide-resistance.
A National Public Health Framework for the Prevention and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases in Humans published in September. To address the growing threat to public health, CDC, five federal departments, and the EPA developed this joint National Framework, which details the strategic priorities of the federal government for critical activities.
- Staff and contractors from DVBD’s Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch provided remote and on-the-ground support for an alternative Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) prevention campaign in one highly impacted tribal community. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 risk, this year’s campaign used a drive-up method to reduce in-person interactions. During the five-day campaign, 525 dogs were provided tick collars, 37 puppies treated with acaricidal spray, and 282 persons were educated. This team was awarded the CDC Health Equity Award for their work on RMSF prevention campaigns.
- DVBD staff in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit, and the Communities Organized to Prevent Arboviruses (COPA) project in Ponce, Puerto Rico began studies on whether mosquitoes with Wolbachia reduce the numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.
- Numerous DVBD staff volunteered to assist CDC’s response to COVID-19. Staff assisted state health departments with epidemiologic studies and lent laboratory supplies. DVBD laboratories also used next-generation technology to sequence complete genomes of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and offered arboviral testing for state health departments. DVBD shipped nearly 18,000 pounds of much-needed PPE within CDC and to state public health partners, including 47 pallets that fit onto two tractor trailers. DVBD partners were also responding to COVID-19 around the world, for example, the Emerging Virus Research Unit at the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology was designated as a principal testing site for Jakarta Province, Indonesia.