- The importance of mosquitoes and other arthropods as vectors of human
pathogens throughout the world has been appreciated since the early part
of the 20th century. In spite of the extensive work that has been done
on some groups in various geographic regions, there is a great lack of
modern biosystematics information for most vectors in all areas of the
world. The widespread distribution of malaria coupled with the resurgence
of drug resistant strains, periodic epidemics of encephalitis and dengue
fever, and the discovery of new arboviruses in most parts of the world,
have made it necessary to conduct detailed studies of the vector groups
of mosquitoes and other arthropods. To effectively control the vectors
and prevent arthropod-borne diseases, it is necessary to complete meticulous
studies of the vector groups, define the specific characteristics of
each species, and develop reliable means of recognizing these species.
- The military, in times of conflict or natural disaster, requires rapid
response measures to protect soldiers and civilians from disease-vectors
and nuisance-biting arthropod populations. History provides many examples
of conflicts and battles, the outcomes of which were influenced by diseases
transmitted by arthropods. Accurate vector identification and a knowledge
of vector biology are essential for arthropod-borne disease risk assessment
and for development of appropriate strategies for vector suppression,
arthropod-borne disease reduction, and vaccine and drug development.
Suppression of vectors of disease and nuisance biters through appropriate
control or suppression measures is essential to reduce non-battle casualties
and conserve the fighting force.
- The purpose of the WRBU is to conduct laboratory and field research
on the systematics of medically important arthropod species and species
groups in support of epidemiological studies and disease control strategies
of importance to the military. Research efforts are carried out worldwide,
with regionalization or faunistic restrictions dictated by available
material and military requirements. In all cases, research efforts have
the development of accurate and reliable means of identifying vectors
of human arbopathogens as their primary aim. These efforts also have
the following objectives:
- to describe and illustrate all the species in the study
- to resolve any taxonomic problems,
- to develop effective keys for identifying all life stages of the
species under study,
- to provide basic biological and ecological data useful in understanding
the epidemiology and prevention of diseases and the control of vector
- to provide data concerning the medical importance of each species,
- to train personnel in field studies and biosystematics research.
- A collaborative multidisciplinary approach to biosystematics is used
when feasible and necessary. This approach, primarily relevant to sibling
species groups, may include all or a combination of the following scientific
- morphology (all life stages),
- cytogenetic (chromosomal) studies,
- molecular (DNA and protein electrophorectic) studies,
- crossmating (genetic) studies, and
- ecological studies (including habitat preference, biting behavior,
vector competence, and distribution).
- Over 12,000 pages have been published in 392 publications (senior authorship
attributed to 14 military officers, 11 civilian employees, and 31 adjunct
personnel). A total of 58 revisionary studies and major identification
keys/guides have been published, each comprising 24 or more pages, 24
of which were over 100 Pages long.To date, 189 new species of mosquitoes
and 61 new species of ceratopogonid biting midges have been described.
Many of these new species are members of sibling species complexes involving
vectors of human pathogens. Our increased ability to identify these vectors
permits the development of more effective and efficient control measures
and enhances studies of disease ecology.
- The number of mosquito specimens (all life stages) deposited in the
National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) has increased
from approximately 200,000 in 1961 to approximately 1.5 million. The
collection is the largest and most diverse resource for mosquito biosystematics
research of its kind in the world. Of the nearly 3,300 species currently
recognized, approximately 1,400 name-bearing type specimens (reference
standards) are deposited in the collection.
- Efforts to obtain properly collected and prepared material for study
have resulted in major field studies and surveys in 8 countries in Central
and South America, 8 Countries in tropical Africa, 2 countries in the
Middle East, and 5 countries in Asia.
- About the WRAIR/SI Collaboration »