WEC researchers to study tick-borne diseases through $10 million CDC grant

Gainesville - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded the University of Florida (UF) $10 million to establish the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases. The center will generate research for understanding and combatting the spread of vector-borne diseases.

Two researchers with UF's Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation-Drs. Samantha Wisely and Katherine Sayler - will survey tick species and the pathogens they carry to help determine ways of combatting the transmission of diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Dr. Wisely is Co-Principal Investigator on Project 3: Ecological and Insecticide-Resistance Models of Tick Vectors in Florida; Dr. Sayler is key personnel. Dr. Sayler is also leading a project to determine the resistance of ticks to common pesticides used to protect pets and livestock.

Dr. Samantha Wisely in the field

"Having a much better understanding of where ticks and their pathogens are in the state will be really important," says Dr. Wisely, who specializes in disease ecology. "We'll be able to create disease risk maps for different habitats throughout the state."

Their project will be highly collaborative, involving researchers from UF's Department of Geography and Department of Entomology and Nemotology. The findings from this study will shed light on effective tick management and tick-borne disease treatment.

"With the arrival of Zika Virus and the continued threat of tick-borne diseases in Florida, there has been a renewed interest in arthropods and the diseases that they vector in the state," Dr. Wisely says. "They can have huge economic and public health impacts on the state."

UF's award is part of nearly $184 million in funding to states, territories, local jurisdictions, and universities to support efforts to protect Americans from vector-borne diseases. These awards are part of the $350 million in funding provided to CDC under the Zika Response and Preparedness Appropriations Act of 2016.

For more information, please contact Dr. Samantha Wisely
Associate Professor
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida
Phone:352.846.0645, FAX: 352.392.6984