Based on his experience at CDC, Nasci notes both the successes and challenges of training and fielding multidisciplinary teams for outbreak response and to conduct basic research. Using the ArboNET surveillance network as an example (see also Petersen in Chapter 2), he also explores the creation and expansion of integrated information systems to monitor disease transmission and risk factors and argues for the development of comprehensive, testable predictive models based on input from a diversity of scientific fields. APHIS also uses multidisciplinary teams to monitor and detect infectious disease outbreaks in animals and plants, often in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Fish and Wildlife Services, state agencies, affected industries, and diagnostic laboratories. Wainwright notes that these efforts, while largely successful, have on occasion “exposed weaknesses in communication and coordination between human public health and animal health agencies.” Through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), APHIS is involved in a number of studies of vector-borne disease, many of which are being addressed through a “multidisciplinary systems approach,” involving other government agencies.
The subsequent paper by panelist David Morens of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases (NIAID) identifies several overarching scientific and logistical obstacles presented by vector-borne disease and compares them with challenges faced by the founders of tropical medicine. “The question of how to foster generalist training and team approaches to problem-solving, in which team members cross disciplinary lines regarded as being remote from each other … is no more impossible than the challenges faced and met successfully in the first 50 years of the 20th century, in which science and public health worked to produce a yellow fever vaccine [and] discovered and developed effective treatments for many vector-borne diseases,” he observes. In order to begin to meet today’s challenges, Morens explains, scientific and political leaders must recognize the complex problems posed by vector-borne diseases, and a cadre of multidisciplinary scientists and public health workers must be trained to address these problems in innovative and integrative ways.
Workshop panelist Adriana Costero, vector biology program officer for NIAID’s Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, describes the variety of funding mechanisms and projects supported by that agency in her contribution to this chapter. These include grants for basic studies and the initial phases of translational research, training grants, and career awards.
As noted in the Summary and Assessment (see section entitled “Needs and Opportunities”), response to the workshop panel presentations was both deep and wide-ranging. In his manuscript, included in Chapter 1 of this volume, Durland Fish offers a vision of “a new interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of vector-borne diseases” firmly grounded in ecology—a discipline historically central to the control of vector-borne diseases, but now at considerable remove from the biomedical sciences. He argues that the shift in studies of vector biology away from ecology and toward molecular biology, which began in the 1970s,