New strategies for the control of arthropod vectors of disease in dogs and cats

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Arthropod-borne diseases (ABDs) in cats and dogs have a major impact on animal health and welfare and, in many cases, also on human health. Many ABDs are expected to increase in prevalence as a result of changing social habits, habitat modifications, introductions of exotic vectors and climate change. Control has, historically, focused on the use of insecticides and chemotherapy. We review alternative, emerging approaches to ABDs that currently offer promise, particularly modelling and molecular techniques and the development of novel vaccines that target molecules produced by arthropods during the bloodmeal. We argue that there is an urgent need to establish effective surveillance systems for most ABDs across various countries in order to facilitate a detailed risk analysis, which should include evaluation of potential spread to new areas and the possible introduction of new exotic species or disease agents. This will require clear and exhaustive knowledge on the distribution of ABDs in different areas, understanding of the diagnostic limitations pertaining to ABDs and standardization of techniques among reference laboratories in different countries. Continuous monitoring of insecticide resistance and the development of management strategies to minimize its onset are also essential. Ultimately, it is probable that approaches which attempt to reduce vector abundance or treat hosts with chemotherapy alone are unlikely to be effective in the long term. More suitable approaches may include greater use of a range of mutually compatible options in integrated management programmes.

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