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J Vector Ecol. 2001 Jun;26(1):1-6.

Partners: serendipity in arbovirus research.

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School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-7360, USA.


A review of 60 years of research on mosquito-borne arboviruses in the Western U.S.A. revealed a number of instances when serendipity influenced the development of new concepts or novel approaches to solve ecological or epidemiological problems. Eight such events were selected as examples. The need for effective mosquito traps to collect live mosquitoes to be tested for virus infection posed design problems and also led to the use of CO2 (dry ice) as a mosquito attractant. This research also led to identification of Culex tarsalis as a primary target for vector control programs in the western U.S.A. Attendance at a movie led to development of fluorescent dusts to mark mosquitoes for studies of their numbers, life tables and movements. Knowledge of vector-virus associations was used to influence state legislative action to provide funding for vector control and further discovery of vector-virus associations. Derivation of the term "Arbovirus" started as laboratory jargon and evolved into being the classification for over 500 vector-borne viruses. Sociobiological changes resulting from the use of television and air conditioning fortuitously decreased exposure of California residents to vector attack. These two changes were introduced into households in California in the early 1950s. The prime time when C. tarsalis, the primary vector of encephalitis, bites people is around sundown which also is primetime for television watching. These sociological changes are a valuable adjunct to vector control programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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