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.)
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>
He feuded with fellow entomologists, was a bigamist (married to two wives at the same time) and caused an uproar when a tunnel he dug in a Washington, D.C. alley collapsed in 1924 and some declared it the work of German spies.
All that will come to light on Thursday, April 28 at UC Davis when entomologist Marc E. Epstein talks about his newly published book on Dyar's eccentric life, Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes: The Eccentric Life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr.
Epstein will present a lecture and book signing from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m., in the International House, 10 College Park, Davis.
The event, free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and by his department. Epstein is a longtime research associate and friend of Rosenheim's.
“As far as how I got into doing research on Dyar, at the onset it was related to my dissertation at University of Minnesota on Limacodidae (family of slug caterpillar moths, so called because their caterpillars bear a distinct resemblance to slugs),” Epstein said.
This led to Epstein and Henson to writing the American Entomologist article “Digging for Dyar: the Man behind the Myth.”
“Since the article appeared in 1992 I've accumulated a lot more information about Dyar, his genealogy, and even more significant connections between him and his favorite moths,” Epstein said.
The book, published by Oxford University Press, will be available for purchase at Epstein's talk.
Epstein is a senior insect biosystematist for the order Lepitopdera (butterflies, moths) with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture. He is a research associate for the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution.
Harrison G. Dyar Jr. (1866-1929) was a Smithsonian entomologist of the early 20th century. He was a taxonomist who published extensively on moths and butterflies, mosquitoes, and sawflies. As a teenager, he studied insects, particularly moths. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1889 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his master's degree in biology from Columbia University in 1894. His doctoral dissertation (1895) dealt with airborne bacteria in New York City.
Oxford University offers this description of Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes:
"On September 26, 1924, the ground collapsed beneath a truck in a back alley in Washington, D.C., revealing a mysterious underground labyrinth. In spite of wild speculations, the tunnel was not the work of German spies, but rather an aging, eccentric Smithsonian scientist named Harrison Gray Dyar, Jr. While Dyar's covert tunneling habits may seem far-fetched, they were merely one of many oddities in Dyar's unbelievable life."
"For the first time, insect biosystematist Marc E. Epstein presents a complete account of Dyar's life story. Dyar, one of the most influential biologists of the twentieth century, focused his entomological career on building natural classifications of various groups of insects. His revolutionary approach to taxonomy, which examined both larval and adult stages of insects, brought about major changes in the scientific community's understanding of natural relationships and insect systematics. He was also the father of what came to be known as Dyar's Law, a pragmatic method to standardize information on insect larval stages as they grow. Over the course of his illustrious career at the U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution from 1897-1929, Dyar named over 3,000 species, established the List of North American Lepidoptera, an unrivaled catalog of moths and butterflies, and built one of the nation's premier Lepidoptera and mosquito collections."
Epstein researches and writes on evolution and classification of moths and their biodiversity, and develops identification tools for moths that threaten agriculture. He served with NMNH's Department of Entomology (1988-2003), co-founding the department's Archives and Illustration Archives. He received his master's degree (1982) and doctorate (1988) from the University of Minnesota.
For more information on the April 28th event, contact Jay Rosenheim at 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.