The Forum on Emerging Infections was created by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1996 in response to a request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The purpose of the Forum is to provide structured opportunities for leaders from government, academia, and industry to meet and examine issues of shared concern regarding research, prevention, detection, and management of emerging or reemerging infectious diseases. In pursuing this task, the Forum provides a venue to foster the exchange of information and ideas, identify areas in need of greater attention, clarify policy issues by enhancing knowledge and identifying points of agreement, and inform decision makers about science and policy issues. The Forum seeks to illuminate issues rather than resolve them; for this reason, it does not provide advice or recommendations on any specific policy initiative pending before any agency or organization. Its value derives instead from the diversity of its membership and from the contributions that individual members make throughout the activities of the Forum. In September 2003, the Forum changed its name to the Forum on Microbial Threats.

About the Workshop

Vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, plague, trypanosomiasis, and leishmaniasis have been major causes of morbidity and mortality throughout human history. During the early to mid-20th century, the vectors for yellow fever, malaria, onchocerciasis, and other diseases were effectively controlled through a variety of intervention, prevention, and control strategies. However, over the past 20 to 30 years, there has been an enormous resurgence of previously “contained” vector-borne infectious diseases for a variety of reasons as well as the global emergence, reemergence, and spread of new vector-borne diseases.

In addition to these threats to human health, new and emerging plant and animal vector-borne diseases have also greatly impacted regional ecologies and economies. Bluetongue virus, a disease agent transmitted to ruminants by insect vectors, costs the U.S. cattle and sheep industry an estimated $125 million annually in lost trade and in diagnostic testing. Citrus tristeza virus, spread to plants by aphids, has killed tens of millions of citrus trees in outbreaks worldwide and is currently threatening the orange crop in central California with an estimated $912 million in revenues at stake.

Because of their increasing economic and public health importance, coupled with their exceptional ability to cause large outbreaks of disease, vector-borne agents will continue to present significant threats to human, animal, and plant health in the future. Domestic and international capabilities to detect, identify, and control these diseases are limited for a variety of reasons.

To consider the importance of vector-borne diseases in terms of their human health, ecological, and environmental implications, the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats hosted a public workshop in Ft. Collins, Colorado, on June 19 and 20, 2007. Through invited presentations and discussions, participants examined factors associated with the emergence of vector-borne diseases, current domestic and international detection and control capabilities, and assessed the resource needs and opportunities for improving and coordinating surveillance, diagnosis, and response to vector-borne disease outbreaks.


The Forum on Microbial Threats and the IOM wish to express their warmest appreciation to the individuals and organizations who gave their valuable time to provide information and advice to the Forum through their participation in this workshop. A full list of presenters can be found in Appendix A.

The Forum is indebted to the IOM staff who contributed during the course of the workshop and the production of this workshop summary. On behalf of the Forum, we gratefully acknowledge the efforts led by Eileen Choffnes, director of the Forum, Kate Skoczdopole, senior program associate, and Sarah Bronko, senior project assistant, for dedicating much effort and time to developing this workshop’s agenda and for their thoughtful and insightful approach and skill in planning for the workshop and in translating the workshop’s proceedings and discussion into this workshop summary. We would also like to thank the following IOM staff and consultants for their valuable contributions to this activity: Patrick Kelley, Alison Mack, Bronwyn Schrecker, Allison Brantley, Lara Andersen, and Heather Phillips.

Finally, the Forum wishes to recognize the sponsors that supported this activity. Financial support for this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Department of Defense: Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Agency for International Development; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; American Society for Microbiology; Sanofi Pasteur; Burroughs Wellcome Fund; Pfizer; GlaxoSmithKline; Infectious Diseases Society of America; and the Merck Company Foundation. The views presented in this workshop summary report are those of the workshop participants and rapporteurs and are not necessarily those of the Forum on Microbial Threats or its sponsors.

Stanley M. Lemon, Chair

P. Frederick Sparling, Vice-Chair

Margaret A. Hamburg, Vice-Chair

Forum on Microbial Threats