The Vector Ecology Laboratory began in 1994 when Prof. Fish moved to Yale from New York Medical College where he was Director of the Medical Entomology Laboratory in the Dept. of Community and Preventive Medicine and Director of the Lyme Disease Center. Established in 1985, Medical Entomology Laboratory at NY Med focused upon documenting and characterizing the peridomestic risk of Lyme disease in suburban Westchester County, NY and in developing preventive measures such as insecticides, repellents, and host-targeted measures for tick control. During this period many students from Fordham University, SUNY Purchase, and other institutions received training in vector-borne diseases and conducted undergraduate, master’s and doctoral thesis research.
The move to Yale provided greater opportunities for student training and also provided enhanced facilities for laboratory studies on tick-borne pathogens. The laboratory now has capabilities for combining both field-based and laboratory-based studies on tick-borne pathogens, as well as other vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and West Nile virus. Early work at Yale focused upon the transmission dynamics of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease and also of Anaplasma phagocytophylum, the causative agent of human anaplasmosis (formerly known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis). The Vector Ecology Laboratory, in collaboration with the now defunct Cambridge Biotech Corp. of Wooster Mass, developed the first cell cultures of A. phagocytophilum in 1994. This breakthrough provided an ELISA assay for serological detection of infection in humans and animals and also provided live material for transmission studies using ticks and mice in the laboratory. These studies were the first to demonstrate transmission of A. phagocytophila by Ixodes scapularis within 24 hrs of tick feeding.
The laboratory colony of I. scapularis, which was started at NY Med, has been maintained and expanded at Yale. Through the hard work of Michele Papero, who was laboratory manager from 1995until 2006, the tick cultivation procedure produces less than 5% mortality from egg to adult and nymphal stage ticks can been maintained at 8o C for up to two years. These advances, in addition to detailed record keeping, now enable us to produce relatively large numbers of ticks on demand, either infected with specific pathogens, or pathogen free. Pathogen free status is verified through serological testing of the previous host blood meal. The tick colony has been an important resource which has attracted many students and scholars to the laboratory over the years.
The application of remote sensing and geographic information systems to studies on Lyme disease began at the NYMC Lab in 1988. Using aerial photographs.