UTIA Named in Five-Year Regional Project Addressing Vector-borne Diseases

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Becky Trout Fryxell Represents UTIA in CDC Training and Education Center

A researcher with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has been appointed to a regional evaluation and training center addressing diseases spread by vectors like insects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $7.1 million over five years for the creation of the new Vector-Borne Disease Regional Training and Evaluation Center, the VectorED Network. The project is led by Penn State in collaboration with the University of Tennessee, Ohio State, and the University of Delaware.  

The UTIA researcher in the VectorEd Network, Becky Trout Fryxell, associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, is a medical and veterinary entomologist with specific training in vector control, vector and pathogen surveillance, and vector ecology and genetics. She is at the forefront of prevention and education about vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and La Crosse virus, and her research focuses on ways to improve human and animal health and welfare by minimizing the negative impacts of arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks. 

“I am excited to be a member of this unique network of vector biologists,” Trout Fryxell said. “Tennessee is uniquely positioned to benefit from this award, as we have seen an increase in many vector-borne diseases. Ticks carrying the Lyme disease bacteria continue to increase in numbers, other tick species are expanding their distributions, and our mosquitoes continue to cause West Nile virus throughout the state. Part of the good news of this grant, is the opportunity to finally study La Crosse Neuroinvasive disease, which is endemic in the eastern region and hurts kids in our community. Part of this funding will be used to help create the public health educational infrastructure our state needs.” 

As a member of this CDC Center of Excellence, Trout Fryxell will optimize vector-borne disease education for undergraduate and graduate students; develop and expand education for vector-borne disease prevention and control for pest control managers, veterinarians, and others who respond to vectors and their associated pathogens; and assist with the evaluation of current vector-borne disease prevention and control methods.  

As part of this project, Trout Fryxell also will provide training for students and professionals to build the next generation of public health entomologists working in academic, public or private institutions. She is in the process of hiring an education specialist to help train veterinarians, public health professionals, pest management professionals, environmental health and safety teams and other stakeholders. 

This program is strategically designed to help Tennessee communities stay healthy and encompasses all aspects of the land-grant mission to provide research, teaching, and outreach. UT Extension will play a role in spreading research-based information to Tennesseans. “UT Extension is already a go-to for information and a trusted source, so we will help supplement that and provide them with information that they can distribute to their clientele,” she said.  

For more information about the VectorEd Network, visit www.vectorednetwork.org. More information will be added to the website as the project progresses.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is comprised of the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and UT Extension. Through its land-grant mission of teaching, research and outreach, the Institute touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. to Tennesseans and beyond. utia.tennessee.edu.

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