Researchers Urge Expanded Vector Management Strategies to Protect Public Health
Public Health researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine published an article that was featured in the August issue of Cell Press’s Trends in Parasitology. The article, “Expanding Integrated Vector Management to Promote Healthy Environments,” outlines the importance of integrated vector management strategies to protect communities from pathogen transmission by arthropods — and their limitations.
Karina M. Lizzi, M.P.H., first author and former research associate at the Miller School, led the research summarizing how arthropod vectors impact health, agriculture and the environment with senior author John C. Beier, Sc.D., professor of public health sciences and Director of the Division of Environment and Public Health, and co-authors Whitney A. Qualls, Ph.D., M.S., senior research associate in the Department of Public Health Sciences, and Scott C. Brown, Ph.D., research assistant professor of public health sciences.
According to the article, integrated vector management that encompasses environmental modifications at early stages — infrastructural development and sanitation services, for instance — would help regulate not only vector organisms that transmit disease pathogens, but also nuisance biting arthropods, such as mosquitos, fleas, cockroaches, bed bugs, ticks and head lice.
“An additional focus on nuisance biting arthropods will improve public health and quality of life, and minimize social-disparity issues fostered by pests, such as asthma and food-borne illnesses,” said Qualls. “Optimally, integrated vector management could incorporate environmental awareness and promotion of control methods proactively to reduce threats of serious pest infestations.”
Through the use of evidence-based collaborative approaches by government and communities, integrated vector management promotes capacity building to further vector control and uses dynamic strategies to help reduce vector populations and pathogen transmission.
Vector control, the researchers say, is an essential factor in improving public health and has the potential to alleviate poverty by reducing disability-adjusted life years, a measure of population health used to assess the magnitude of disease, health risks and premature death.
Using the 2006 chikungunya epidemic in India as an example, the article shows that the lack of vector control exacerbated the spread of the pathogen and caused extensive suffering to residents. In addition, the researchers describe how insect infestations differ significantly with economic conditions, furthering the gap between socioeconomic groups and intensifying social disparities. Cockroaches, in particular, are the most common insects encountered by low-income homeowners in the United States. They rely on human activities to spread and proliferate in areas with poor sanitation and structures. Similarly, environmental risk factors for bed bug and tick-borne diseases include low socioeconomic status and high-density neighborhoods.
Another vector control obstacle is increased insecticide use, which has led to resistance and is hazardous to human and environmental health.
The researchers note that consistent use of chemicals for agricultural pest management has negative impacts on the eyes, skin and respiratory, neurological and gastrointestinal systems, calling for new complementary strategies beyond pesticide application.
“Incorporating integrated vector management in the early stages of community development is the safest and most affordable approach to reduce host-vector contact and pathogen transmission and prevent serious vector and pest situations,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers concluded that if integrated vector- and pest-management strategies successfully incorporated environmental modifications as methods of controlling pests, communities would be cleaner, structural soundness would increase, and health disparities that arise from external hazards would decrease.
“A comprehensive approach toward pest and vector control where structural, policy, and environmental issues are addressed will produce long-lasting effects that reduce disease, create healthier environments, and improve quality of life,” Beier said.