Predicting the next vector-borne disease outbreak such as West Nile or Lyme disease, just became easier today. That is because VectorMap, the world’s largest database of expertly curated, arthropod vector collection data has returned to the public domain, for the first time in more than two years.
VectorMap provides researchers, public health officials, and other decision-makers with actionable data that informs timely and life-saving responses to emerging vector-borne disease threats worldwide. It combines data from digitized museum specimens, scientific literature and ongoing vector surveillance operations under a unified information schema.
“Imagine having instant access to highly-detailed, expertly-vetted surveillance of the most dangerous disease transmitters on the planet at your fingertips,” said Dr. Yvonne-Marie Linton, Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit, Research Director. “That is possible now with this unique capability, which provides a holistic understanding of the ‘what, when and where’ of vector species facilitating highly specific predictions that mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”
VectorMap was initially released in 2006, to showcase the associated distributions of specimens in the US National mosquito collection. The newly redesigned online portal now provides public access to over 750,000 collection records for mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, biting midges, fleas, and mites, as well as hundreds of ecological niche models. The models help predict the potential geographic range and associated disease risk for the world’s most notorious vector species. It also presents several enhanced features including the ability for users to upload their own data, create printable maps and perform geospatial analyses.
“The flexibility to upload and compare their data instantaneously with expertly vetted VectorMap records validates findings, improves model accuracy, and helps researchers predict disease risk,” Linton said. “In short, by knowing the vector, we know the threat—knowing it early can save lives.”
VectorMap is a product of the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU) of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). The WRBU operates within the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and manages collections of medically important insect specimens. They apply the same rigorous museum curation standards to VectorMap data as are required for specimens within NMNH collections.
The new portal, funded by a National Science Foundation award in collaboration with North Carolina State University, and realized in conjunction with web developers at the University of Notre Dame (UND), greatly improves the user experience and functionality and is built for longevity–much like a museum for vector distribution data.
“What makes VectorMap so powerful, is that it brings together isolated datasets from across the globe together in one place for long-term accessibility,” Linton said. “Users will have unlimited access to high-quality, curated data from a wide variety of sources and we hope our users will also become regular data contributors."
To access the data portal visit the VectorMap website: http://vectormap.si.edu/
For more information about WRBU visit the WRBU website: https://wrbu.si.edu/