First, there's the upcoming free public event, the Zika Public Awareness Symposium, set Thursday, May 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall. Professor Walter Leal of the Molecular and Cellular Biology and 18 of his biochemistry students are organizing it. Leal, a chemical ecologist, collaborates with fellow mosquito researchers in his native Brazil.
Secondly, medical entomologist Greg Lanzaro, a professor in the the UC Davis Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, will speak on “Mendel, Mosquitoes and Malaria: Applying Modern Genetics to Control an Ancient Disease” at a Davis Science Café presentation at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 8 in the G Street Wunderbar, 228 G St., Davis. It's free and open to the public.
The third event is not a pending event, but a pivotal one. It's a TEDx must-watch-and-share presentation by graduate student Ralph Washington Jr. of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His topic: "Science, Poverty, and the Human Imagination." He mentions his fascination with mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika viruses.
First, a little about each:
"It is very important that students and the public-at-large learn how to prevent a possible Zika epidemic as this is the first virus known to be transmitted both sexually and by mosquitoes," said coordinator Walter Leal, a chemical ecologist and professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
"We thought that we did not have the vector (the yellow mosquito), but now our research in collaboration with Brazilian scientists indicates that our local mosquitoes (Culex) are also competent vectors," Leal said. "And more and more we hear cases of travelers returning home infect with Zika virus. I am so glad that a group of 18 students who took my biochemistry class last quarter decided to launch this initiative to educate their peers and citizens of Davis about this dangerous virus."
The scientific-based symposium will include expert panels and speakers throughout the United States and the world, including those working on the front lines of the Zika epidemic.
The Zika Epidemic – An Overview
Professor Walter S. Leal
UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Congenital Zika Syndrome
Dr. Regina Coeli Ramos, University of Pernambuco, Brazil (remote)
Zika Virus and Me
Professor Brian Foy
Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, Colorado State University
Zika Virus: Looking into Mosquitoes' Vectorial Capacity
Professor Constância F. J. Ayres
Department of Entomology, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz-Pernambuco, Brazil (remote)
Don't Let Mosquitoes Bug You with Zika – Repel Them
Professor Walter S. Leal
UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
DEET vs. Zika – I Would Go with the Former
Dr. Emanual Maverakis
Department of Dermatology, UC Davis School of Medicine
Keeping Mosquito at Bay, Not in Your Backyard
Dr. Paula Macedo
Laboratory Director, Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District
Friends Don't Let Friends Get Zika
Dr. Stuart H. Cohen
Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, UC Davis Medical School.
Attendance to the symposium is free, but due to limited space, those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to email@example.com.
'Mendel, Mosquitoes and Malaria: Applying Modern Genetics to Control an Ancient Disease': Wednesday, June 8, G Street Wunderbar, Davis
UC Davis medical entomologist Greg Lanzaro, a professor in the the UC Davis Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is the invited speaker at the Davis Science Café presentation at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 8 in the G Street Wunderbar, 228 G St., Davis.
The event, billed as "A Conversation with Professor Lanzaro," will be hosted by Professor Jared Shaw of the UC Davis Department of Chemistry. Shaw founded the Davis Science Café in 2012. It's held the second Wednesday of each month and is free and open to the public. This is a good opportunity to learn more about mosquitoes and the research underway.
Lanzaro, a noted malaria mosquito researcher, is the former director of the UC Statewide Mosquito Research Program. Science Café is affiliated with the Capital Science Communicators.
This is an inspiring presentation by Ralph Washington Jr., a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a second-year Ph.D. student in Entomology and Nematology. He chairs the UC Davis Graduate Student Association, co-chairs the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, and is one of the leaders of the UC Davis Black Graduate and Professional Students Association. He is committed to science and social justice and seeks a career as a research professor. He seeks to encourage children, especially low-income children, to study science. (Watch video on TEDx) (Watch video on YouTube)
In his presentation, Washington, who grew up in Oak Park, an impoverished Sacramento neighborhood, says that "The most important thing you should know about my childhood, is that I once knew hunger so well that the pangs were my closest friends. I was hungry for food, I was hungry for emotional stability and I also was hungry for knowledge."
He goes on to talk about children's innate curiosity and that we need to give them "the spark to ignite their imagination."
Mosquitoes also enter the picture. “Mosquitoes have very interesting biology," Washington says. "Some spend winter frozen in blocks of ice whereas others develop in lakes as alkaline as ammonia, more than twice as salty as seawater and as hot as a scalding shower. Some develop in empty snail shells or the tops of concave mushrooms or in a horse's hoof prints."
Be sure to tune in to hear what Washington says about several mosquitoes, including Aedes aegypti and its courtship. You'll remember what he says the next time a mosquito buzzes around you./span>
It shouldn't be, nor is it, at the University of California, Davis.
Medical entomologists and other scientists at UC Davis are planning a Malaria Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 25 in the Memorial Union.
The event will take place in MU II (second floor) and is free and open to the public.
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell the alarming story.
"It is a leading cause of death and disease in many developing countries, where young children and pregnant women are the groups most affected," the CDC points out, citing these figures from the World Health Organization's World Malaria Report 2013 and the Global Malaria Action Plan:
- 3.4 billion people (half the world's population) live in areas at risk of malaria transmission in 106 countries and territories
- In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 207 million clinical episodes, and 627,000 deaths. An estimated 91% of deaths in 2010 were in the African Region.
The most vulnerable groups, CDC says, are young children, who have not yet developed partial immunity to malaria; pregnant woman, whose immunity is decreased by pregnancy, especially during the first and second pregnancies; and travelers or migrants coming from areas with little or no malaria transmission, who lack immunity.
Africa, according to CDC, is the most affected due to a combination of factors:
- A very efficient mosquito (Anopheles gambiae complex) is responsible for high transmission.
- The predominant parasite species is Plasmodium falciparum, which is the species that is most likely to cause severe malaria and death.
- Local weather conditions often allow transmission to occur year round.
- Scarce resources and socio-economic instability have hindered efficient malaria control activities.
The schedule for the UC Davis Malaria Awareness Day:
10 to 10:30 am.: Coffee/social/posters
10:30 to 10:50: "General Malaria Biology" by medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
10:50 to 11:20: Conducting Field Research in Rural Africa" by medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and based at the UC Kearney Agriculture and Research Center, Parlier
11:10 to 11:30: "Marlaria Parasites in the Mosquito" by molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor, UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and an adjunct professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology
11:30 to 11:50: "Mosquito-Borne Viral Diseases" by medical entomologist Chris Barker, assistant adjunct professor and assistant research scientist, UC Davis Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
11:50 to 12:10: "Disease Transmission by Non-Mosquito Vectors" by epidemiologist/veterinarian and disease ecologist Janet Foley, professor, UC Davis Department of Medicine and Epidemiology
12:10 to 1:30: A free lunch will be provided, but reservations must be made by April 21 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When he was doing research in Brazil in September, he draped a snake around his neck and posed for the camera.
His favorite research subjects, though, are mosquitoes.
- The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, found throughout the tropics and subtropics and a newly invasive species in central California.
- The West Nile virus mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, found throughout much of the world.
- The malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, which wreaks worldwide havoc.
Cornel's name appeared in the news this week when the UC Davis lab of Walter Leal announced that it had found the odorant receptor that repels DEET in the southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito. Cornel provided the mosquitoes that allowed the Leal lab to duplicate his colony. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the work Oct. 27.
Cornel's main research keys in on the population genetics and ecology of West Nile virus vectors in the United States and population genetics and ecology of major malaria vectors in Africa.
“Anton is a great asset to our program, a wonderful colleague, and a nice team player,” said Leal, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. “We benefit greatly from his generosity by sharing not only mosquito colonies, but also his encyclopedic knowledge on mosquito biology and ecology. We shared co-authorship in a number of publications, and many more are coming.”
Cornel collaborates with Leal on oviposition attraction in Culex quinquefasciatus and “we are now endeavoring to come up with effective oviposition attractive chemical lures to use in virus surveillance and kill traps.”
“The invasion of Aedes aegypti into central California has been of great concern especially as current control methods do not appear to be working very well,” said Cornel, who works closely with state's mosquito abatement personnel. “We have found that the Aedes aegypti have insecticide resistance genes which likely explains why their ultra-low volume (ULV) and barrier spray applications have not worked as well as expected. Work will be ongoing next year when the Aedes aegypti become active again after a brief slow overwintering period from November to March.”
A native of South Africa, Cornel received his doctorate in entomology, focusing on mosquito systematics, in 1993 from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship with the Entomology Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, before joining UC Davis in 1997 as an assistant professor and researcher.
How did he get involved in mosquitoes? “My interest in mosquito research started in the mid-1980s when I agreed to conduct a masters study under the guidance of Dr. Peter Jupp at the National Institute of Virology who researched West Nile and Sindbis viruses transmitted by mosquitoes in South Africa,” Cornel recalled. “Thereafter I continued to work on mosquitoes as a scientist employed at the South African Institute for Medical Research before moving to the USA.”
“Who would have thought that that the expertise that I gained on West Nile virus as a master student in South Africa would be used many years later after West Nile virus invaded and spread throughout the USA?”
For more than two decades, Cornel has teamed with fellow medical entomologist and “blood brother” Professor Gregory Lanzaro of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to study malaria mosquitoes in the West African country of Mali. Their work is starting to show significant results.
“Because of our commitment to conduct long term longitudinal studies and not static investigations,” Cornel said, “we have now shown that considerable selective processes are taking place causing spatiotemporal dynamics of gene flow and fitness events in major malaria vectors M (now Anopheles coluzzii) and S (now Anopheles gambiae) and M/S hybrids in West Africa.”
“We are currently establishing further evidence of the important role of insecticide resistance traits in spatiotemporal dynamics of Anopheles coluzzii, Anopheles gambiae and the Bamako form.” Cornel noted that these results have “considerably important implications in future efficacies of insecticide treated bednets to control indoor biting malaria vectors in West Africa.”
Cornel also teams with Lanzaro and Professor Heather Ferguson of the University of Glasgow to examine the ecology and associated genetics of the major malaria vector Anopheles arabiensis in Tanzania. They began working on the project four years ago.
One of his newest projects is the study of population/genetics, insecticide resistance and cytogenetics in the major malaria vector in Brazil. Cornel and Lanzaro launched their study in September when they traveled to Brazil to begin targeting the culprit, Anopheles darlingi, a “widely distributed species that has adapted to survive in multiple ecological zones and we suspect that it may consist of multiple incipient or closely related species,” Cornel said.
“While in Brazil I collected larvae and dissected salivary glands from them to examine their polytene chromosome inversion structure and polymorphisms,” Cornel related. “Inversions are vitally important to consider in genetic analyses and it takes considerable patience to interpret the chromosomes.”
Cornel and Lanzaro collaborate with Professor Paulo Pimenta of the Laboratory of Medical Entomology, René Rachou Research Centre- FIOCRUZ, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The UC Davis medical entomologists hope to produce good preliminary data from their research trip to write grants and establish a long-term project in Brazil.
Cornel also studies avian malaria. That interest sparked four years ago when he began working in Cameroon with scientists from UCLA and San Francisco State University (SFSU), including SFSU's Ravinger Sehgal, who studies avian blood parasites. Cornel's graduate student Jenny Carlson, in her final year of her Ph.D studies at UC Davis, is investigating avian malaria in Fresno County.
The Cornel-Carlson research implicates that considerable fidelity exists between Culex mosquito species and species of plasmodium they transmit. “This is contrary to the currently held belief that all Culex mosquitoes are equally capable of transmitting avian malaria,” Cornel said. “In our investigations, we described a new species of avian malaria which is very common in songbirds in Fresno County (published in Parasitology Research).”
Cornel plans to continue working with Sehgal investigating the effects of deforestation on transmission of avian parasites in Cameroon. They recently submitted a National Science Foundation grant proposal. “A large swath of primary forest is slated to be deforested in Cameroon and replaced with Palm oil plantations and we will investigate the effects of this hopefully, as it happens.”
Also new on the horizon: Cornel will be starting a new mosquito-borne virus project in February. He received a Carnegie Foundation scholarly three-month fellowship to work in South Africa (February through to April). The primary objective of the project? To examine mosquito-borne viruses cycling in seven national parks in South Africa and two National Parks in Bostwana.
“It's extremely difficult to get permission to conduct field research in national parks in Southern Africa and this provides an unprecedented exciting opportunity for me to work with a friend, Professor Leo Braack from the University of Pretoria, in these parks. One has to be very careful working in some of these parks at night because of the wild predators, elephants, hippos and buffalo.”
Cornel is active in the 30- member Center for Vectorborne Diseases (CVEC), headquartered in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and considered the most comprehensive vectorborne disease program in California. Both interdisciplinary and global, CVEC encompasses biological, medical, veterinary and social sciences.
Bradley White, assistant professor at UC Riverside, will speak on “Ecological Genomics of Malaria Mosquitoes” at the UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar from 12:05 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Building, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
Professor Gregory Lanzaro of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine will introduce White. Plans call for video-recording the seminar for later posting on UCTV.
"Anopheles gambiae is the most important malaria vector in the world,” White says in is abstract. “Remarkable adaptive flexibility has enabled this mosquito to track humans across the diverse ecoclimates of sub-Saharan Africa where it thrives in both highly mesic and xeric conditions. These rapid, recent ecological adaptations have driven incipient speciation into two ecotypes, which differentially exploit permanent and temporary larval habitats. Within each nascent species, abundant chromosomal inversion polymorphisms facilitate adaptation to local conditions along latitudinal environmental gradients."
“To elucidate the genetic basis of ecological adaptation in Anopheles gambiae, we performed a series of genome-wide divergence scans, which revealed candidate regions subject to recent natural selection. Dissection of one of these genomic regions established a link between naturally occurring allelic variation and an adaptive phenotype. In the context of evolutionary genomics, these studies shed light on the maintenance of inversion polymorphisms and also provide insight into the genomic architecture of reproductive isolation. From a public health standpoint, this work demonstrates how divergent ecological selection can impact the vectorial capacity of Anopheles gambiae -- with consequences for malaria epidemiology and control.”
White began working on mosquitoes as an undergraduate at Oberlin College in Ohio. “At the time, West Nile virus (WNV) was sweeping through the midwest and during the summers I participated in a project to identify the Culex vectors of WNV and to determine environmental factors affecting their abundance,” he said. “After leaving Oberlin, I spent the next seven years in Nora Besansky's lab at Notre Dame where I focused on the population genomics of the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae."
White, who joined the UC Riverside Department of Entomology faculty in 2011, focuses his research on quantitative and functional genomics of Anopheline malaria vectors.
More information? Check out his website at http://www.mosquitogenomics.org.
This year's event, set Wednesday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 1031 of the Gladys Valley Hall, School of Veterinary Medicine, will include presentations on the historical, current and future efforts of malaria control, as well as updates on other vector biology research.
The UC Davis World Malaria Day is an opportunity "for students and researchers engaged in vector biology and genetics research to come together to discuss their research efforts,” said spokesperson Michelle Sanford, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Vector Genetics Lab.
The event supports World Malaria Day and the Roll Back Malaria Program in promoting education and research in the fight against malaria.
How did the UC Davis World Malaria Day observance originate? It was launched in 2007 by the (now folded) UC Mosquito Research Program, a UC Agricultue and Natural Resources program based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and directed by medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro. Lanzaro is now a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology of the School of Veterinary Medicine.
For the last several years, the Vector Genetics Lab has funded the World Malaria Day observance through a National Institutes of Health training grant.
Lanzaro and his "blood brother" medical entomologist Anthony Cornel direct the Vector Genetics Lab research programs. They've been doing research in Africa together for years. Cornel is an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and a mosquito researcher at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier.
The target: malaria, a mosquito-borne disease caused by infected Anopheles mosquitoes transmitting Plasmodium parasites.
The bad news is that more than half of the world's population is at risk for malaria. According to the World Malaria Report 2011, more than 216 million cases of malaria and an estimated 655 000 deaths occurred worldwide in 2010. Children in Africa are the still most susceptible to malaria; a child dies every minute of the disease.
The good news: Due to investments in malaria control, malaria mortality rates have dropped by more than 25 percent globally since 2000. Statistics show that malaria deaths in Africa have been cut by one-third within the last decade, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The strides we're making in tackling this massive killer are reflected in this year's World Malaria Day theme: "Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria."
Sustain. Save. Invest. Well said.