I was delighted to be a presenter at the inaugural “Medical Entomology Today!” conference held in Tucson January 6-8. Organized by the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute, and sponsored by Rare Disease Therapeutics, Inc., it was a modest but promising success.
The Doubletree Hotel in central Tucson was the site of the conference, occupying two rooms. The registration table out front was admirably staffed by Polimana Joshevama, a gifted and energetic young lady who volunteers frequently at SASI.
Throughout the conference, one room was devote to exhibits and vendors, while the other was reserved for presentations. Shane Burchfield, representing Hatari Invertebrates and Eco Books had perhaps the most popular table, complete with live spiders, scorpions, and centipedes.
The conference kicked off Thursday evening with keynote speaker Dr. Rick Vetter of UC Riverside. His talk, entitled “The Myth of the Brown Recluse: Mythidentifications, Mythconceptions and Mythdiagnoses” was highly informative and entertaining, and free of lisps after pronunciation of the title. Rick has a great sense of humor, but he is also dedicated to achieving accuracy in the assessments of mysterious skin lesions all too often attributed to “spider bites.” Rick has documented fifty (yes, 50!) causes of necrotic wounds other than bites of recluse spiders. Some of those maladies can be far worse than a spider bite if treated incorrectly.
Friday’s morning paper sessions and afternoon workshops covered subjects as diverse as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections and their treatment through maggot therapy, to the physical and mental health effects of bed bug infestations.
Saturday morning’s papers addressed United States kissing bug species (Triatoma, pictured above) and their potential for the transmission of Chagas disease, plus an introduction to why insect stings cause pain; the development of scorpion antivenom for the stings of Centruroides sculpturatus (shown below) was another topic. The stings of this species can pose a lethal threat to infant children, but treatment with antivenom can result in a child patient being discharged from the hospital in mere hours.
Yours truly gave the final paper, “Social Media and Self-Diagnosis: How the Internet Has Changed Medical Entomology for Better and Worse.” It was an honor to present at this conference, which attracted attendees from Chicago, South Carolina, Tennessee, and New Mexico as well as Arizona.
Another great thing that came of the conference was that I got to meet Barbara Roth, wife of the late Vincent Roth, a beloved arachnologist and good friend of my mentor Jim Anderson and his wife. Barbara and I delighted in talking about our mutual friends and look forward to getting together again in the neighborhood of Portal, Arizona where she still lives and works.
Plans are already in the works for the next installment of Medical Entomology Today!, this time with the offering of continuing education credits for members of the medical community, and perhaps pest control operators as well. Please visit SASI to find proceedings of this conference as well as pending announcement of future meetings.