About

New and re-emerging diseases threaten Florida’s tourism, health and economy, which are particularly vulnerable due to the state’s mild climate and diverse agriculture. Weather patterns, commercial plant imports, and annual global visitors, all have the potential to unwittingly carry pathogens from other countries into our state.The Emerging Pathogens Institute fuses key disciplines to develop research, education, and outreach capabilities designed to preserve Florida’s health and economy, and to prevent or contain new and re-emerging diseases.

The problem:

Florida's residents and its two major industries, agriculture and tourism, are threatened by new diseases that enter Florida including West Nile virus and citrus greening. Other diseases not yet in Florida are an even larger threat such as avian flu in humans and foot and mouth disease in cattle. Florida's unique geography and climate require unique disease prevention and control strategies. Development of such strategies, however, requires a strong research base with a global outlook: pathogens do not respect national borders, and their control requires an awareness of what is happening around the world.

Why is Florida particularly vulnerable?

Florida's wide array of temperate, sub-tropical, tropical ecosystems and its diverse agriculture are particularly vulnerable to new pathogens that thrive in our mild climate. Hurricanes allow disease agents to appear and reappear from the Caribbean and Latin America simply by being wind-borne. Over 76 million tourists each year and commercial plant imports from across the globe have the potential to unwittingly carry pathogens to our state from other countries.

THE PURPOSE AND MISSION OF THE INSTITUTE:

The Emerging Pathogens Institute was created in 2006 to provide a world-class research environment to facilitate interdisciplinary studies of emergence and control of human, animal and plant pathogens of concern to Florida, to the nation and to the world.

THE GOALS:

  • To understand the genetic changes (and evolutionary drivers) that lead to the emergence of new pathogens; 
  • To appreciate the complex interaction of environmental and host factors that permit these pathogens to spread within plant, animal, and human populations;
  • To use these data to develop and implement interventions to minimize risk of disease transmission;
  • To train the next generation of investigators in emerging diseases, within a unique, interdisciplinary setting; and
  • To disseminate information about emerging pathogens, and their control, to the people of Florida.

THE MAJOR, CURRENT AREAS OF RESEARCH:

  • Vector-Borne Diseases
    • Zika, West Nile, Malaria, Dengue
  • Influenza, other viral pathogens
  • Tuberculosis/drug-resistant TB/non-TB mycobacterial disease
  • Enteric and Foodborne Illnesses
    • Cholera, diarrheal disease
    • Foodborne disease policy and control
  • Plant pathogens
  • Antibiotic Resistance/hospital infection control
    • MRSA