Vector-borne diseases

The impact of globalization on the spread of vector-borne infections

Globalization has opened up many advancements in healthcare.

But the free flow of people has also brought about many challenges – not least the increasing ability for infectious diseases to spread1 rapidly and across borders.

Until relatively recently, vector-borne diseases were restricted to specific geographies. But in the past few decades, rising global temperatures—a result of climate change—have allowed them to move beyond their original areas and spread quickly into other territories.2, 3


Two notable examples include the expansion of West Nile virus and Chagas disease.

  • Mosquito-borne West Nile virus (WNV)4 was originally recorded primarily in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere. It was first detected in an urban area in 1996 and by 1999 it had reached New York. Then, by 2002, it had spread across the entire US.
  • Chagas disease5 - caused by a parasite which is spread in the feces of the triatomine bug - was originally confined solely to Central and South America. But the disease has now taken hold in other continents.

Approximately 700,000 deaths annually are estimated to be due to vector-borne infections and 80% of the world's population is at risk of one or more vector-borne diseases.7 Detection and treatment are clearly vital to prevent further spread across the globe.

laboratory technician looking away
Prepared labs are essential

An intricate and evolving healthcare infrastructure underpinned by quality, safety and accuracy is the first line of defense in prevention against a vector-borne outbreak.

Emergency preparedness should be considered as part of any responsible lab’s development plan. Ensuring scalability and flexibility to respond and adapt quickly is necessary to reduce the risks from emerging vector borne diseases.

This means that the right diagnostic tools are essential for epidemic intelligence, surveillance systems, and investigative approaches. Reliable and accurate outcomes of consistent quality enable confidence in results and solutions.

Increased testing efficiency is one way of ensuring the quality and purity of results. Despite the high levels of safety in how blood is collected, tested, processed, and transfused, blood and plasma products do remain vulnerable to diseases.8 Labs need confidence in clinical sensitivity and experience to minimize risk.

The best diagnostic tools and platforms are ones that are scalable and fit into an existing workflow. This reduces the need to purchase new systems, and means that lab workers can utilize existing expertise, thus minimizing workload. A broad assay menu spanning across various diseases including Zika, WNV, Dengue and Chikungunya allows for greater outbreak coverage. Advanced automation reduces the possibility of human error, meaning assay results are standardized, clinically validated, and reliable – leading to higher confidence in results.

Expanding emergency preparedness solutions for blood screening

Roche’s global reach and experience can help labs respond and scale as needed. This is critical when addressing an outbreak, and can help reduce the rate of infection.

This support has been seen more recently when responding to the emerging outbreaks, of both Zika and Babesia:

  • In May 2019, Roche initiated screening of blood samples after the FDA Babesia transfusion-transmitted infection announcement.9
  • In 2016, Zika virus was detected in Puerto Rico10, causing the FDA to issue an emergency use authorization of Roche’s assay, making it the first commercially available test for the detection of Zika. Roche then worked with local labs to support their needs for high throughput to address the pandemic. This support helped to shorten turnaround times and favorably positioned labs to address future outbreaks and epidemics. The response to Zika was a key element in emergency preparedness for labs processing samples from donors who may have exposure to the tropical disease.

In both cases Roche’s IVD tests to detect the viruses aided in keeping the blood supply safe from these diseases.

As pathogens evolve and emerge, continuous innovation and development of tests is required. Future ready healthcare systems and labs can lead the way in innovative care, by leveraging automation to drive increased efficiency with minimal human interactions.

male patient talking to nurse
Committed to continuous innovation and support

Roche is committed to ever improving testing and analytics, delivering state-of-the-art solutions to aid in the protection of the global blood supply from infectious diseases.

Explore the full product portfolio for vector-borne infections
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  1. World Health Organization. Globalization and infectious diseases: A review of the linkages. 2004. Accessed October 28, 2020
  2. World Health Organization. Global Vector Control Response. Accessed 4 December 2020.
  3. Rocklöv, J., Dubrow, R. Climate change: an enduring challenge for vector-borne disease prevention and control. Nat Immunol 21, 479–483 (2020).
  4. James J. Sejvar. West Nile Virus: An Historical Overview. Ochsner J. 2003 Summer-Autumn; 5(3): 6–10.
  5. World Health Organization. Chagas disease (also known as American trypanosomiasis). Accessed October 29, 2020.
  6. Magnus MM, Espósito DLA, Costa VAD, et al. Risk of Zika virus transmission by blood donations in Brazil. Hematol Transfus Cell Ther. 2018;40(3):250-254.
  7. World Health Organization. Vector Control. Accessed October 28, 2020.
  8. Chamberland ME. Emerging infectious agents: do they pose a risk to the safety of transfused blood and blood products? Clin Infect Dis. 2002;34(6):797-805.
  9. Food and drug administration (FDA). Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Transfusion-Transmitted Babesiosis. Accessed 04 December 2020.
  10. Food and drug administration (FDA). Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Zika Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Components.,%20blood%20&%20biologics/published/Revised-Recommendations-for-Reducing-the-Risk-of-Zika-Virus-Transmission-by-Blood-and-Blood-Components--Guidance-for-Industry.pdf. Accessed 04 December 2020.