What's Medical Entomology?

Oct 31, 2008

What's medical entomolology?

Anyone who's an entomologist or who works in entomology is asked that question periodically. Medical, they know. Entomology? Often not. But medical entomology?

Well, it's the study of relationships among arthorpods, microbial pathogens and human health, according to medical entomologist Thomas Scott, professor of entomology at UC Davis.

Scott teaches courses on medical entomology. His next one: the 2009 winter quarter,  Jan. 5 through March 16.

Worldwide, Scott says, arthropod-borne diseases have devastating effects on human health; they are a leading cause of human morbidity and mortality.

In his course, he explains the basic biology of medically important arthropods and the pathogens they transmit. The diseases include malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease and River Blindness.

Scott, a noted mosquito-borne disease expert and newly elected fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science  (for "distinguished contributions to the biology and ecology of mosquitoes and his leadership in developing strategic concepts for preventing dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases”) does research from his mosquito research laboratory at UC Davis and at field stations in Peru, Thailand and Mexico.

In January, Scott hosted the 42nd annual U.S.-Japan Parasitic Disease Conference on the UC Davis campus. Some 100 scientists from throughout the world participated in the three-day conference "to develop a cross-cutting perspective on what the priorities should be for the future research on arthropod vectors of disease," he explained.

With new and emerging diseases, increasing national and international travel, settlement in endemic areas, and the proliferation of commerce, we can expect disease from vector-borne pathogens to increase, Scott says.

It's obvious what we need less of (diseases) and what we need more of (medical entomologists).

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

IN KENYA--UC Davis medical entomologist Thomas Scott, towers above schoolchildren in Kenya in a photo taken in 2004. (He's 6-foot, 6-inches tall.)

Thomas Scott in Kenya

THE CULPRIT--This is the mosquito, Aedes egypti, that transmits dengue. UC Davis entomologist Thomas Scott is a leading authority on the mosquito and the disease. See http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/news/tomscottdengue.html. (Photo by James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Mosquito that tranmits dengue