The world of science has always been an interest for human beings. The need to understand the unknown, to discover cures for diseases, to comprehend how the human body works are the driving force for man to pursue different medical fields. Disease has been something that has haunted and scared people over the years. The discovery of penicillin and other amazing drugs have been phenomenal because they provide a certain hope for those who are ill. Plaques, epidemics and the like used to be a mystery for scientists.
However, with the advancement of research, the development of experimental theories and tools, medical professionals soon came up with answers to end high mortality rates. Laboratory experiments have been especially effective in discovering transmission of disease. Scientists now have the knowledge to say whether one type of species is more susceptible to a certain strain of disease causing bacteria than others. The proliferation of certain species, insects, to be more specific, in a particular region also gives scientists a clue regarding how to control, isolate and manipulate the transfer of the illnesses.
This is where medical entomology comes in. In numerous reviews that concern the history of medical entomology, people have always regarded the obvious as insignificant. Insects, arthropods and parasites are normal occurrence in the environment. Through the years, people thought that they are harmless until certain events occur. Even in non-medical sources, such as the Bible, one can find reference to insects being the cause of a plague.
Although people cannot explain it lengthily then, they have a vague idea that these creatures that originally seemed harmless, could actually cause a catastrophic event that would destroy crops and cause a number of people death. This paper aims to provide a brief background and discuss medical entomology. Since this field of medical science is connected with other fields such as Public Health and Epidemiology, definition of other areas of study would also be discussed to highlight the difference of medical entomology with the said fields.
Researches, discoveries and markers of development in this field would also be explained. Specific studies made in the United States would be cited to further emphasize the role of medical entomology in this particular region. This citations of studies would also emphasize on the applications of medical entomology and its practical use in society. Lastly, medical entomology and its various aspects would be correlated to different studies so that the importance of such a field would be completely and clearly understood. Prevention is said to be better than cure.
Medical entomology lives up to this saying and this paper aims to discuss how significant this science is to the every day life of society. Entomology is said to be a field of science that dates back to hundreds of years ago. After all, as one scientist mentioned, how can anyone put a date to the study of insects and parasites (Rogers, 1960)? It is known that the eighteenth century truly provided a great turn for entomology as this is the age when organization and taxonomy were finally established for orderly study of insects (Rogers, 1960).
The founders of this science were not experts on this field. Instead, they were ordinary people—some who were not even able to finish formal education, some are in the medical profession or even the law. They were not paid for the service they rendered but through these people, medical entomology—its core foundation was established (Rogers, 1960). At present, there are different diseases that remain without cure. For years, people have tried and studied varying carriers and vectors for the fast spread of disease.
They found that insects, arthropods, water and food are some of the possible vehicles for disease transmission. Public heath—monitoring, researching and conducting surveys to make sure that health is promoted plays a big role in every day lives of individuals (Edman and Eldridge, 2004). It is through this field of medicine that one is able to understand the prevalence and incidence of a certain disease or phenomenon that is happening, over time or even in just a specific period.
Through the years, sub-specializations under Public Health proliferated. Medical entomology is actually one of the fields often regarded as a branch of Epidemiology (Edman and Eldridge, 2004). To be more specific, the field of medical entomology deals with the study of insects and closely related arthropods that play a crucial role in the condition of human health. This may be related to behavior, ecology, and as earlier mentioned, epidemiology of arthropod diseases (Edman and Eldridge, 2004).
The main goal of medical entomology is to provide substantial information that could be helpful for government officials, medical professionals, scientists and the like to ensure that the public is safe and away from harm (Edman and Eldridge, 2004). In comparison, epidemiology is basically the study of the occurrence of diseases in different types of people. This is valuable in preventing illness and evaluating present strategies and programs aimed at promoting public health. It is for this definition that medical entomology, public health and epidemiology have an interrelation that is unavoidable.
Over the years, people have started paying much attention to medical entomology. With the development of drugs and discovery of diseases and their cures, it is only important to understand the transmission, distribution of certain vectors and factors aiding the widespread of disease and infection. Studies and researches flourished aiming to alert the public and health officials of upcoming dangers to specific species of insects and arthropods. Medical entomology in the United States has played a significant role in disease prevention.
As early as the 1800’s researchers have been providing relevant studies that could assist in determining vectors for specific diseases. In the University of Maryland, the Department of Entomology was established as early as 1859 (Entomology, 1986). Agricultural research was highly connected to this field and as insects damaged Maryland in the mid 1890’s legislators were forced to establish the State Horticultural Department (SHD). Regulation, field work and education were the core concepts that the SHD implemented to decrease the occurrences of catastrophic events like crops damage (Entomology, 1986).
The academic, experimental and practical aspects of medical entomology became realized and actually applied to prevent further economic degradation for the state. More changes in the University of Maryland occurred in relation to medical entomology. In the 1920’s, they established three main departments aiming at three things. One of this is the eradication of insects which have been introduced to the United States, like the Japanese Beetle (Entomology, 1986). Another is the study of the effective use of pesticides. Lastly, the graduate school of entomology was opened.
This has become the start of the realization of the importance of medical entomology. Other states followed and so did the flow of studies. In an article by Madden (1945), he showed how important medical entomology is for society. Florida as he mentioned is a state severely affected by insect-borne diseases. Some of the reasons he depicted in his article talked about how Florida is a subtropical state conducive to the propagation of insects, and the fact that they are near the West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America (Madden, 1945).
These things, Madden claimed, could minister to the transmission of insect related diseases and infections (Madden, 1945). In 1973, the importance of a link between science and government has been greatly emphasized. The United States government started realizing and actually paying attention to researches that are concerned with parasitology. Emphasis on how biomedical researches should be given a reasonable budget because they greatly concern public safety was raised (Weinstein, 1973).
In addition to this, the government made certain scientists advisors for allocation of funding and grants for biomedical research and training (Weinstein, 1973). Medical entomologists are not confined in the specific field of medical science. Consistent with their jobs in the eighteen hundreds, they remain to play a role in government offices. The U. S. Department of Defense and Centers for Disease Control employs a number of entomologists (www. entsoc. org, 2000). One proof of the current interaction of the United States government and medical entomology is Dr. Robert D.
Hall (www. entsoc. org, 2000). The acclaimed professor and researcher is presently employed with the judicial system. He is consulted with regard to law enforcement and interpretation of entomological evidence (www. entsoc. org, 2000). Another study, one by Darsie and Ward (2005), concerned the understanding of the morphology of mosquitoes, their geographical distribution in North America and north of Mexico. By producing such research, they are able to document and possibly correlate certain diseases that profuse in such areas with the mosquitoes that are proliferating there.
A related study dealt with the general worldwide threat of arthropod-transmitted diseases (Lederberk, et al, 2002). The associated morbidity and mortality of the cases were taken into consideration. This highlights the need for insect repellant products. The availability of chemical products that could combat such species in the United States were enumerated and studied. The researchers found out which ones were most effective and could provide protection against insects and keep the public less susceptible to acquiring the disease (Lederberk, et al, 2002).
Another player in this field, Jerome Goddard devoted a book to the study of major vector-borne diseases around the world. Instead of just focusing on mosquitoes, he dealt with ticks, fleas, and other vectors such as Chaga’s disease and scrub thyphus, to name a few (Goddard, 2000). In his study he provided full length description of the vectors involved provided guidelines for its treatment and controls. He also gave detailed information regarding the biology and geographical distribution of certain species that concerned his study (Goddard, 2000).
In this type of research, he was able to pin point and specifically identify vectors that could be harmful and could possibly the transport of diseases to different countries and even continents, without the exception of the United States. His book and study remains as the gold standard reference in understanding the transmission and morphology of insects. As one can see, medical entomology is not concentrated to only one species. Although it may seem that mosquitoes are most paid attention too, other scientists and researchers have been demonstrating interest in different species as well.
In a study by Drexler (2000), she applied medical entomology to a subject that could be more applicable to modern day. Anti-terrorism is one of the biggest issues governments are facing today. Especially in the United States where it seems that this is becoming government priority. Medical entomology can play a role here as well. The researcher refers to it as “the war on germs. ” According to Drexler (2000), bioterrorism is one of the biggest threats that could face individuals today. The role of the entomologist is to identify specific vectors for disease and not only focus on one.
Food-borned illness or pandemic flu may be caused not only by mosquitoes but also other agents. The more one knows about the source, the more action one can provide against infection. Rapid response and keen surveillance should be skills that entomologists should develop in order to be effective in their field (Drexler, 2000). Providing rapid action could save lives and possibly isolate disease and prevent high morbidity. With the advancement of technology, medical entomology also copes with the fast-paced changes.
Different programs such as ProMed-mail (Madoff, 2004) have been made to make archiving and the data base system for infectious diseases, and their causes more efficient. Pro-Med’s main objective is to report outbreaks of infectious diseases that affect humans. It utilizes and maximizes the internet to make sure that researches are instantaneously updated regarding different illnesses that concern entomology. It also serves as an early warning system, should there be a significant imbalance in the ecosystem that could possibly be a threat to human beings (Madoff, 2004).
Working hand in hand with the agricultural sector to monitor livestock is also a part of ProMed. This is because ProMed recognizes the importance of these animals in disease transmission. Aside from other scientists in ProMed, medical entomologists have a great responsibility in checking the validity of studies and the information that is made accessible to the public (Madoff, 2004). As one can see from the discussion, medical entomology is of great importance to society. It not only provides knowledge regarding different species or insects and arthropods, it also correlates to disease and susceptibility of human beings to illness.
Although entomology also tries to research on cure for certain diseases that are cause by arthropods, medical entomology has the primary goal of preventing the spread of diseases. By understanding the morphology of insects, one is able to predict how fast it can spread the disease it is carrying. In a time where technology is highly being utilized and cure for a great number of diseases is being discovered, individuals realize the importance of medical entomology and the roles it plays in society. It is important to remember that it is a field that cannot stand alone.
It works with different other medical sciences and even the government to be able to maximize the knowledge and discoveries it encounters. As for the medical entomology in the United States, it puts great emphasis on the factors resulting to the emergence of microbial threats. These threats open the eyes of the public and alert them to be more cautious of their environment. By providing relevant information, one can be vigilant and the government can provide cost-effective strategies for disease prevention and maintaining the public’s health in the United States.
At present, the government is still working hand in hand with medical entomologists. Researches are still being funded because the government has recognized the importance of prevention. It is definitely more cost efficient and effective to avoid threats rather than provide cure when an outbreak has already occurred. Infectious disease is an inevitable part of life. However, this does not mean that people should just remain exposed to such variables that may cause disease. Prevention is the key to avoid catastrophic outbreaks or plaques. With the right tools, sufficient knowledge, prevention can be done.