It's good to see UC Davis mosquito researchers featured in the KQED's science program, "Deep Look."
KQED journalists recently traveled to the UC Davis campus to visit several mosquito labs. The end result: The KQED news article on “How Mosquitoes Use Six Needles to Suck Your Blood,” which includes an embedded video. The National Public Radio's health blog, “Shots,” includes a shorter version. You can also see the Deep Look video on YouTube (embedded below).
- Parasitologist and entomologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Medical Microbiology and immunology and the Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (PMI), UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and an associate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology
- Virologist Lark Coffey of PMI
- UC Davis post-doctoral researcher Young-Moo Choo of the Leal's lab who discovered a receptor by dissecting mosquitoes' mouthparts and genetically testing them.
“Mosquitoes don't find the blood vessel randomly," Leal said, pointing out that the receptors respond to chemicals in the blood.
The receptor that the Leal lab discovered is called 4EP, and may lead to drug companies developing new mosquito repellents. “First they'd need to find a repellent against the receptors," Choo told Quirós. "Then they'd treat people's skin with it. When the mosquito tried to penetrate the skin, it would taste or smell something repulsive and fly away.”
But back to the video. The narrator reveals the sophisticated tools that the mosquito uses to draw your blood.
- A protective sheath retracts: inside are six needles, and two of them have sharp, tiny teeth
- The mosquito uses the sharp, toothed needles to saw through your skin
- Other needles hold the tissues apart while she works
- Receptors on the tip of one of her needles guide her to your blood vessel.
- She uses the same needle like a straw to sip your blood
- She uses another needle to spit chemicals into you so your blood will flow easily. That's what gives you the itchy, scratch-me-now welts.
Of course, it's the viruses or parasites that the mosquito transmits that can sicken and kill us. Depending on the species, they give us such diseases as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, Zika virus and elephantiasis.
As KQED says "This is the deadliest animal in the world. Mosquitoes kill hundreds of thousands of people each year...the most vulnerable people: children and pregnant women."
KQED performed an excellent public service in reporting and sharing this scientific information, gleaned from the UC Davis labs. The first day the video was posted, it drew nearly 400,000 views.
We worry about what mosquitoes do to us. If mosquitoes could talk--if they could communicate with us--they ought to be worried about what we're going to do to them.
(Access the American Mosquito Control Association website to learn the biology of mosquitoes.)
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.
No, not rhinos, cape buffaloes, hippos, lions, elephants, crocodiles or sharks.
It's an insect, the blood-sucking mosquito. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria, including Anopheles gambiae, kill more than people than any other animal on the planet.
"About 3.2 billion people--nearly half of the world's population--are at risk of malaria," according to the World Health Organization. "In 2015, there were roughly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths."
You'll learn more about mosquitoes and malaria, plus other pests and diseases, at the free public lecture on Thursday morning, April 7 in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visiotr Center, UC Davis.
Noted medical entomologist Matthew Thomas of Pennsylvania State University will speak on “Ecology and Control of Pests and Diseases: from Biblical Plaques to the Most Dangerous Animal on the Planet” at 10:45 a.m. in the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) Hall. The talk is sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Storer Life Sciences Endowment of UC Davis.
At Penn State, Thomas serves as the Huck Scholar in Ecological Entomology and directs the Ecology Institute, in addition to his duties as a professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology and Centre for Infectious Disease Dynamics.
He will be introduced by Professor Shirley Luckhart of the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, coordinator of the event.
Thomas researches many aspects of the ecology and evolution of insect pests and diseases in his drive to understand the consequences of global change and to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of pest and disease management. His work involves predicting and understanding the impact of invasive species, and researching biodiversity and ecosystem health, plus many aspects of biological control.
Last December Thomas and his research team at Penn State, in collaboration with partners in Europe and Africa, received a five-year, $10.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate a new method for preventing the transmission of malaria.
“The method involves limiting mosquito access to houses by blocking openings and installing ‘eave tubes' that contain a unique type of insecticide-laced mosquito netting developed by Dutch partner In2Care that kills the insects as they attempt to enter,” according to a Penn State news release.
Thomas was quoted as saying: “Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of contracting malaria, and according to the most recent World Health Organization report, an estimated 438,000 people died from the disease in 2015. The use of insecticides to control mosquitoes has saved millions of lives, but this tactic is increasingly challenged because mosquitoes quickly evolve resistance to the very limited number of insecticides currently used in public health. The eave tube approach presents a novel strategy to help combat this challenge by simultaneously making houses more mosquito proof and providing a novel way of delivering insecticides, which creates opportunities for using a wider range of insecticidal products."
"The small amount of insecticide used in the tubes means that it is cheap to treat an entire house," said Thomas. "Furthermore, retreatment is easy, as it requires simple replacement of small pieces of netting within the tubes."
Internationally recognized, Thomas is a recipient of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Medal for Research Achievement, is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and an honorary professor at the University of Witwsatersand, South Africa. He also received Penn State's Alex and Jessie Black Award for Research Excellence
Mosquitoes will take the spotlight, front line and center, this month.
On Wednesday, April 8, Regents Professor Michael Strand of the University of Georgia, Athens, and internationally recognized for his research on parasite-insect host interactions, will speak on "The Role of Microorganisms in Growth, Development and Reproduction of Mosquitoes” at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs.
Next the Pacific Branch of the Entomologist Society of America (PBESA) will honor medical entomologist Thomas W. Scott, distinguished professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, at its 99th annual conference, April 12-15, in C'ouer d'Alene, Idaho. He will receive the coveted C. W. Woodworth Award for his outstanding work on dengue, a mosquito-transmitted disease.
And then on Friday, April 24, UC Davis will co-host the fourth annual Bay Area World Malaria Day Symposium, set from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, April 24 on the Clark Kerr campus, UC Berkeley. UC Davis and Zagaya, a non-profit organization that envisions a malaria-free world, are partnering on the project.
Michael Strand Seminar April 8
Professor Strand's talk is much anticipated. "Mosquitoes are well recognized as the most important arthropod vectors of disease-causing pathogens," Strand says in his abstract. "Interest in the gut microbiota of mosquitoes has risen recently as a potential tool for manipulating vector competency. In contrast, much less is known about the role of this community in mosquito growth, development and reproduction. In this talk I will discuss recent results from our lab group regarding the composition of the gut microbiome in different mosquito species and insights we have gained about the function of this community in mosquito biology and evolution."
Strand focuses his research in the areas of parasite-host interactions, virology, immunity and development. Current projects center on virus-host interactions, function of the insect immune system, and regulation of reproduction in mosquitoes and other insects.
Strand will be introduced by molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology School of Medicine, and co-director of the UC Davis-based Center for Vector-borne Diseases (CVEC).
Talk will turn to dengue at the PBESA meeting in Co'eur d'Alene, Idaho. Professor Scott, who has researched mosquito-borne disease for 35 years and is retiring in June, is a global authority on the epidemiology of mosquito-borne disease, mosquito ecology, evolution of mosquito-virus interactions, and evaluation of novel products and strategies for mosquito control and disease prevention. Among the top vector biologists in the world, he is recognized as the leading expert in the ecology and epidemiology of dengue.
Scott is known for his holistic and comprehensive approach in finding solutions to protect the world's population from dengue, a disease that infects some 400 million per year. Some 4 billion people in 128 countries, more than half of the world's population, are at risk for dengue. Currently no vaccine or drug is effective against this life-threatening disease.
Scott's most significant research contributions concern the ecology and epidemiology of dengue:
- Blood feeding behavior, longevity, dispersal, and vector-virus interactions of the mosquito Aedes aegypti;
- Longitudinal cohort studies of spatial and temporal patterns in human dengue virus infection in Peru and Thailand; (dengue research in Peru, Thailand, Puerto Rico and Mexico for the past 25 years)
- Impact of human movement on mosquito contact rates and spatial dimensions of dengue virus transmission; and
- Mathematical and computer simulation modeling of mosquito population biology and mosquito-borne pathogen transmission.
Scott co-founded the Center for Vector-Borne Research (CVEC), comprised of researchers throughout the UC System. See more information on Scott.
Patrick Duffy, chief of the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology, will keynote the fourth annual Bay Area World Malaria Day Symposium, set Friday, April 24 on the Clark Kerr campus, UC Berkeley. The symposium, to take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be co-hosted by UC Davis and Zagaya.
Duffy is an internationally recognized expert in human malaria pathogenesis, malaria in pregnancy, and malaria vaccine development. He has published more than 100 papers on malaria over his nearly 25-year career.
UC Davis co-host Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology School of Medicine, and co-director of the Center for Vector-borne Diseases, will be one of the speakers.
Meanwhile, take a look at the spectacular mosquito images taken by entomologist/photographer Jena Johnson of Athens, GA (she is married to Michael Strand). This is the Aedes aegypti mosquito blood-feeding on her.
If you want to learn about malaria and the exciting new research underway, be sure to set aside Friday, April 24.
The event, open to the public, will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Clark Kerr campus, University of California, Berkeley. Keynote speaker is Patrick Duffy, chief of the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology. Duffy is an internationally recognized expert in human malaria pathogenesis, malaria in pregnancy, and malaria vaccine development. He has published more than 100 papers on malaria over his nearly 25-year career.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites, which are transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The statistics continue to be alarming. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated last December 2014 that about 198 million cases of malaria occurred in 2013. Every minute a child in Africa dies from malaria. WHO estimated that malaria deaths in 2013 totaled 584,000 deaths worldwide. However, malaria mortality rates among children in Africa has dropped an estimated 58 percent since 2000, thanks to increased malaria prevention and control measures.
In addition, members of the Luckhart lab, including Jose Pietri, Lizzy Glennon, Lattha Souvannaseng, and Nazzy Pakpour, will present their research at the meeting.
"The event will provide significant opportunities for networking for our trainees and for spending a day thinking about we can make a difference to eliminating one the greatest global health crises of our time," Luckhart said.
James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Cecilia Giulivi, professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, "will be presenting on innovative applications of their expertise to malaria research," Luckhart announced.
Other UC Davis campus faculty attending the meeting will include Renee Tsolis of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine, and her lab; and Koen Van Rompay, director of the Diagnostics Laboratory, California National Primate Research Center, UC Davis.
The daylong event will conclude with a gala reception hosted by the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), a global public health non-profit founded in 1977 with significant interests in malaria and more than 1200 employees in 30 offices across the world.
Zagaya, directed by Kay Monroe, is a Bay Area-non profit that envisions a malaria-free world created through education, innovative vector control, effective vaccines, better water management and safer pesticides, and access to the highest quality anti-malarials available.
The symposium is open to the public, and registration is underway. See Bay Area World Malaria Day Symposium. General admission is $50, and student admission (with identification) is $25. Registration includes breakfast and lunch. In addition, attendees are invited to donate funds for bednets in Africa. The donations will go to Nothing But Nets, one of the World Malaria Day partners.