GALVESTON, Texas – The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is in the unique position to have been awarded funding to launch 2 of the 10 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-supported Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID). The Coordinating Research on Emerging Arboviral Threats Encompassing the Neotropics (CREATE-NEO) center (1 U01 AI151807-01) led by Dr. Nikos Vasilakis and the West African Center of Emerging Infectious Diseases (WAC-EID; 1 U01 AI151801-01) led by Dr. Scott Weaver will coordinate efforts with the other NIAID funded centers around the globe where emerging and re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks are likely to occur. Multidisciplinary teams of investigators will conduct pathogen/host/vector surveillance, study pathogen transmission, pathogenesis and immunologic responses in the host, and will develop reagents and diagnostic assays for improved detection for important emerging pathogens and their vectors. For more information, visit: https://creid-network.org/.
The CREATE-NEO center will integrate surveillance of mosquito-borne viruses, also called arboviruses, across Central and South America with predictive modeling in order to better anticipate and counter emergence of arboviral diseases. The information gained from the CREATE-NEO center will forewarn local, national and global public health agencies of arboviruses like yellow fever, chikungunya, and dengue, within Central and South America that pose particularly high risk of transmission among people, and/or international spread. The center would provide important information about emerging diseases that could become a threat to the United States.
“Our established network of partnerships at the core of CREATE-NEO has been on the forefront of studies understanding the mechanisms of arbovirus emergence and transmission for the last 20 years.” said Nikos Vasilakis, UTMB professor in the department of Pathology and CREATE-NEO principal investigator. “We will also build local capacity to detect, predict and respond to emerging arboviruses at their point of origin, thereby maximizing the potential to avert full-blown emergence, and critically, be able to quickly redirect our efforts to address any emerging diseases.”
Although emerging infectious diseases have been recognized for decades, the last 15 years have been marked by the unprecedented emergence of several devastating epidemics of animal- and insect-borne RNA viral diseases, many of which originated in Africa.
The WAC-EID will focus on the surveillance of humans, mosquitoes, ticks and wild animals that are likely hosts of RNA viral diseases, including chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever, Ebola, Lassa, Nipah, Hendra, SARS-2 and MERS coronaviruses. The center will address critical gaps in understanding how viruses emerge and will improve capabilities for responding to outbreaks through field studies of animal-to-human viral emergence, circulation, and disease transmission. In addition, clinical studies of people exposed to these viruses will improve diagnostics and increase experts’ understanding of the resulting illnesses. The center may also identify new emerging viruses and produce risk maps for human exposure.
“The strengthening of existing collaborations between UTMB and our partners in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, along with biosafety and biosecurity training and improved diagnostics, will support a West African network of emerging viral disease laboratories and hospitals better prepared to respond quickly and effectively to future outbreaks,” said Scott Weaver, director of the UTMB Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and WAC-EID principal investigator. “As increases in the rates of global travel, urban expansion, deforestation and global climate change all elevate the risk of further spread of these viruses throughout the world, the new CREID centers will enable experts to gain a better understanding of the risks for local and international disease spread and improve the ability to effectively quell viral spread.”