On December 20, 2006, the world lost one of its foremost experts in vector-borne illnesses, including malaria, Lyme disease, and dengue: Andrew Spielman, a professor of tropical public health within HSPH’s Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. The accomplishments of Spielman and his associates read like a modern history of public health entomology and include outlining the life cycles and ecology of the agents of human babesiosis and Lyme disease; revealing the role of saliva in transmitting disease; introducing growth regulators that interfere with mosquito development as an aid to mosquito control; and exploring the possible role of roosting birds in spreading viruses that cause Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Encephalitis.
Spielman came to HSPH in 1959, initially serving as an instructor in the Department of Tropical Public Health, later the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. He also headed the Laboratory of Public Health Entomology and served as a faculty associate with the Center for International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
In the 1970s, Spielman traveled to Nantucket to investigate rare outbreaks in humans of babesiosis, a red blood cell disease usually found in animals. By trapping voles and mice to collect ticks and then infecting hamsters with the Babesia protozoan, Speigelman identified the tick responsible for so-called “Nantucket fever” and the white-footed mouse as the protozoan’s reservoir. Later he showed the same deer tick to be the vector for Lyme disease.
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