Working out the bugs
Arthropods -- they bug us most of the time. Mosquitoes, spiders, ticks, mites, centipedes -- the list goes on and on. Many people have a hard time tolerating these little creatures; some are even deathly afraid of them.
For the men and women conducting research funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Military Infectious Disease Research Program, however, studying this particular group might be considered a labor of love. For many years, the research teams at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Naval Medical Research Center, and OCONUS labs throughout the world, in coordination with MIDRP have been working on safeguarding Soldiers against potentially serious diseases carried by seemingly harmless bugs and flies. The result of this joint effort is the Arthropod Vector Rapid Diagnostic Device, or AV-RDD.
"The AV-RDD products developed by the USAMRMC are unique in that they can identify if an arthropod is infected with a pathogen that may cause severe disease in humans," said Monica O'Guinn, a senior biomedical scientist on the MIDRP team.
The AV-RDD is a hand-held device used to determine whether arthropods, such as sand flies and mosquitoes, are infected with pathogenic organisms capable of infecting deployed military personnel. This device can be used anywhere at any time. It is as simple to use as an over-the-counter pregnancy test, and provides results in less than a half hour.
"These products are not for use with human samples, so they do not diagnose disease in Soldiers that have acquired a disease spread by these various arthropods," continued O'Guinn. "Instead, they are used to identify areas in which arthropod-borne diseases are present, so that commanders can determine which steps to take to either control the arthropods with pesticides or trapping, or mandate the use of personal protective measures."
These personal protective measures typically involve the use of bed nets or bug repellents, the enforcement of proper uniform wear (i.e., long sleeves, long pants, hats, etc.), and potential prophylactic measures (e.g., pills) in the case of a malaria outbreak.
Currently, five AV-RDDs have been completed and assigned a "National Stock Number," which means that these can be purchased by preventative medicine detachments/units, health care personnel, and medical laboratories for use in a deployed setting.
These five products include detection kits for Malaria, West Nile virus, and Rift Valley Fever virus, as well as a combination of viruses such as (1) West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, and Western Equine encephalitis, and (2) West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, and Eastern Equine encephalitis. An AV-RDD has been established for Dengue (Feb. 2012), and one for Leishmania is in the process of obtaining an NSN assignment.
To establish their effectiveness as a countermeasure against infectious disease, the AV-RDD kits have been tested in both Army and Navy laboratories, and evaluated at USAMRMC and NMRC field sites in Thailand, Peru, Indonesia, and Kenya. These products have also been endorsed for use by the Armed Forces Pest Management Board.
"A goal of the USAMRMC is to produce products that have an impact on increasing force health protection, and now we can use these AV-RDD kits in the field as a tool to conduct surveillance against medically relevant pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, and other carriers," said O'Guinn.
The tireless efforts of the research teams supported by MIDRP will certainly help to protect our Soldiers -- who spend their days protecting us.