The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI to research vector-borne diseases



[email protected]

The University of Iowa is among a group of institutions in a new federally funded center to counter and research vector-borne diseases.

The Upper Midwestern Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases is a collection of five states that use a $10 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research vector-borne diseases. The others are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois.

“I think … the Zika virus outbreak revealed a critical weakness in the disease response ability globally, so I think this was largely prompted by the Zika virus outbreak so we could be better prepared to respond to outbreaks like this,” said Bradley Blitvich, associate professor veterinary microbiology and preventative medicine at ISU.

According to the CDC, Iowa has one of the lowest number of reported cases of Zika virus with 27 “laboratory-confirmed symptomatic Zika virus disease cases.”

Vector-borne diseases, which include West Nile virus and Lyme disease, are transmitted by blood-sucking mosquitos or ticks, said Lyric Bartholomay, an UI adjunct associate professor of epidemiology.

“The University of Iowa in particular is exceptionally important to us because [of] the Public Health Institute in the state of Iowa, so [they] have a College of Public Health and the State Hygienic Laboratory, and through those two places, a lot of important things for our center will be happening,” Bartholomay said.

The Midwestern Center goals are to provide information to the general public based on data collected on mosquitos and ticks in the five state areas, she noted.

The research will help understand where ticks or mosquitos are, whether they are infected with any of the pathogens, and if they are infected with anything new, she said.

“These things we are studying don’t comply with state boundaries, so we are trying to capture a regional picture instead,” she said.

The mosquito and tick species are unique in the upper Midwest, Blitvich said, noting that Lyme disease is a relative problem. “The Midwest has unique characteristics that make the Midwest a good place for such a grant,” he said.

For this grant, Ryan Smith, an ISU assistant professor of entomology, said Midwest states are hoping that by training students in the area, they will remain in the Midwest, which will improve response to diseases.

“And I think it’s really important to build up a base of people who are knowledgeable not only in the Midwest but anywhere in the country,” he said. “I think that this grant enables us to build up that base.”

More to Discover