Dengue emergence in Córdoba, Argentina, 2009-2018

New data on dengue emergence in Córdoba, Argentina, highlights the global problem of emerging mosquito-borne viruses in temperate climates.
Dengue emergence in Córdoba, Argentina, 2009-2018

In 2009, Córdoba, Argentina, experienced its first major outbreak of dengue fever, a virus that is transmitted by the mosquito species Aedes aegypti. Córdoba is a city with a mild temperate climate.  Until recently, dengue has been restricted to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The 2009 outbreak of dengue is a signal of a change that is happening globally—tropical mosquito-borne diseases are beginning to spread outside of the tropics because global surface temperatures are increasing due to climate change, global travel is increasing rapidly, and cities are growing worldwide. This trifecta leads to a marked increase in the risk of transmission of Aedes-borne viruses like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.  The mosquitoes that transmit these viruses prefer to live in artificial containers in and around human dwellings, and they prefer to feed on humans over other mammals. As urbanization increases the density of human populations and as global surface temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, it is expected that dengue and related viruses will become a greater global health burden.

Córdoba, Argentina, is a city that is unfortunately becoming a case study for emerging mosquito-borne viruses in temperate climates. The 2009 outbreak was shocking, but more troubling were a series of subsequent outbreaks in 2013, 2015, and 2016.  Each outbreak was larger and more serious than the last, indicating that the virus and its mosquito hosts were becoming increasingly more established in the city.  In order to better prepare mosquito control and public health institutions, it is important to assess the potential causes of the previous outbreaks.

In the present work, "Arbovirus emergence in the temperate city of Córdoba, Argentina, 2009–2018," our team of international interdisciplinary collaborators led by Dr. Elizabet Estallo, a researcher from National Scientific and Technical Research Council of  Argentina (CONICET), associate at the Institute of Biological and technological research- IIBYT (CONICET and Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, has assembled, cleaned, and made accessible ten years of data on the importation and local transmission of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses.  These data can help researchers determine just how severe the outbreaks of dengue in Córdoba have been, allowing them to make predictions about future outbreaks in the city. By assessing the previous outbreaks, researchers and local government officials can be better prepared for future outbreaks.  That is, if we can truly understand the magnitude of the previous outbreaks and are able to develop insights regarding why and how they happened, the health sector will be better able to adopt proactive control measures to prevent future outbreaks.

This data set also provides a highly unique opportunity to study the emergence of mosquito borne disease a temperate climate—the zone of expansion of the range of disease transmission.  As climate change drives an increase in global surface temperatures and more erratic precipitation patterns, understanding the expansion of mosquito-borne disease is going to be increasingly important. If the data in this publication can be utilized to better understand why and how dengue has become an increasingly bigger problem in temperate climates, we will be able to better understand why and how dengue and similar arboviruses are expanding globally. These data can be used to better understand how factors such as global travel, climate, and lifestyle will continue to contribute to the emergence of dengue in temperate regions around the world in the coming decades. 

The study was conducted in collaboration with investigators from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, USA; the Institute of Biological and Technical Investigations (IIBYT) CONICET – National University of Cordoba in Cordoba, Argentina; the Center of Entomological Investigations in Cordoba, Argentina, the Institute for Global Health and Translational Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, USA; the Department of Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, USA; and the InterAmerican Institute for Global Change Research in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The study was supported in part by grants award to Dr. Michael Robert and Dr. Anna Stewart-Ibarra by the United States Embassy in Argentina administered through the Fulbright Commission, a PhD scholarship awarded to Elisabet Benitez from CONICET, and an undergraduate student scholarship awarded to Daniela Tinunin from the National Interuniversity Council.

Citation: M. A. Robert, D.T. Tinunin, E.M. Benitez, F.F. Ludueña-Almeida, M.M. Romero, A.M. Stewart-Ibarra, E.L. Estallo. Arbovirus emergence in the temperate city of Córdoba, Argentina, 2009–2018. Sci Data 6, 276 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41597-019-0295-z

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