War on Dengue Fever

Nov 5, 2008

UC Davis medical entomologist Thomas Scott is mentioned in "The War on Dengue Fever," a news article published Nov. 3, 2008 in the New York Times.

Scott is a leading expert on dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease transmitted by Aeges egypti.

Reporter Thomas Fuller began his story:

BANGKOK — There was little that doctors could do for a 3-year-old boy brought to Bangkok’s main children’s hospital two weeks ago with dengue fever. Like thousands before him, he had reached the most dangerous phase of the disease, dengue shock syndrome, and he died of internal bleeding and organ failure three days after being admitted.

The U.S. Army maintains a medical research laboratory in Bangkok, where military scientists study tropical diseases. One of their goals: to develop a vaccine for dengue.

Here's where Scott comes in:

"The mosquito can breed in something as small as a soda bottle, but its ideal breeding conditions are large containers common in many parts of Southeast Asia to store drinking water," Fuller wrote. "(Unlike other mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti prefers clean water, according to Thomas W. Scott, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who is a leading expert on the species.)"

We wrote about researcher Scott's work in July: On the Trail of Dengue: A Disease with No Vaccine, No Cure.

Scott's goal is to save lives through research, surveillance and implementation of disease prevention strategies. He maintains field stations in Peru, Mexico and Thailand.

He's studying  "the patterns of human infection with dengue virus, doing detailed studies of mosquito populations and disease in humans in order to predict which prevention strategies work the best."

Basically, Scott assesses risks, develops computer models and implements disease prevention strategies.


The culprit: Aedes egypti, or the yellow-fever mosquito, that transmits dengue virus to people.

The disease: Dengue, caused by any one of four serotypes or closely related viruses known as DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, or DEN-4. Nicknamed “break bone fever,” classic dengue is characterized by high fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting and a rash.

The prevalence: Some 50 to 100 million annual cases of debilitating dengue fever. The most severe form of the disease, dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), strikes half a million a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 5 percent with DHF die.

The CDC says dengue outbreaks occur in most tropical urban areas of the world where the Aedes egypti lives. 

In the United States, dengue is rare. Occasionally travelers to infected areas  return with the disease.

Now the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, is attempting to develop a vaccine for dengue. As New York Times reporter Thomas Fuller wrote, quoting Col. James Boles, the laboratory commander: "There's no dengue in Kansas. No malaria, either. That's why we are here."

And that's why medical entomologists like Thomas Scott are here, too.


By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

MEDICAL ENTOMOLOGIST--Thomas Scott, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is one of the leading authorities on dengue. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Medical entomologist Thomas Scott

IN THE LAB--Battling mosquito-borne diseases, Thomas Scott, medical entomologist and professor of entomology at UC Davis, maintains a mosquito research lab in Briggs Hall on the UC Davis campus and field stations in Mexico, Thailand and Peru. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

In the lab