Research

Research in the Medical Entomology lab at ISU ranges from molecular exploration of arthropod-pathogen interactions and  applications based on augmenting the innate immune response, to field ecology of mosquito and tick-borne diseases in the state of Iowa.  Specifics of some of these projects follow:

Current projects:

Molecular Mosquitocides:  Development of an innovative and robust, platform-based approach for sustainable insecticidal control of Anopheline mosquitoes, funded by the Foundations for the National Institutes of Health.  The objective of this project is to develop RNA interference as a means to target physiologically essential genes and thereby induce mortality in the primary vector of malaria parasites in sub-Saharan Africa, Anopheles gambiae.  Barry Beaty, Colorado State University, PI. 

A platform-based approach to developing and delivering nanoparticle antivirals for disease control in farmed shrimp, funded by the National Science Foundation.  The objective of this research is to use RNA interference and a nanoparticle delivery system to suppress diseases of viral etiology in cultured shrimp.

Cholinergic receptors as targets for accelerated anthelmenthic discovery, funded by the National Institutes of Health.  The objective of this research is to target cholinergic receptors in filarial worm parasites for possible development as druggable targets.  The project incorporates the use of RNA interference, receptor expression in cultured cells, and screening a library of drug candidates, toward the research objective.  Michael Kimber, Iowa Sate University, PI.

Enhancing the efficacy of pyrethroid insecticides against phlebotomine sand flies using plant essential oils and individual terpenoids.  The objective of this research is to explore the possibility that essential oils can function to enhance the efficacy of the existing repertoire of insecticides (used in clothing and bednets) to protect deployed military personnel from biting insects, particularly mosquitoes.  Joel Cots, Iowa State University, PI. 

Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases, funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The objective of this project is to monitor mosquito and arbovirus activity in the state of Iowa using standard surveillance methods (i.e., mosquito trapping and sentinel chicken monitoring).  Results from these efforts can be viewed HERE.

Previously funded projects: 

Monitoring Mosquitoes, Encephalitis Virus, Ticks and Lyme Disease Activity in Iowa, funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The objective of this project is to provide a public health service to the citizens of the state of Iowa by monitoring mosquito and tick populations/arbovirus and Lyme disease activity.  Results from these efforts can be viewed HERE.

Mode of Action of Nootkatone and Carvacrol, funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The objective of this work was to test candidate receptors for components of essential oils that are particularly effective repellents against the blacklegged tick.  Joel Coats, Iowa State University, PI. 

Molecular Mechanisms of antiviral immunity in the mosquito, funded by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.  The objective of this project was to explore the physiology and molecular biology of cell death in association with transovarial transmission of mosquito-borne viruses.

Genotypic and Phenotypic Analysis of West Nile Virus, Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, funded by the National Institutes of Health.  This project involved an international collaborative effort to investigate why WNV seems to cause far less disease in Mexico as compared to the United States.  Brad Blitvich, Iowa State University, PI.

Development of a small animal model of vaccination against malaria infection, funded by the University of Iowa.  This collaborative effort between ISU and U of I entails the maintenance of the life cycle of Plasmodium berghei at ISU, and parasite challenge/vaccine development at U of I.

The Role of Hemocytes in Mosquito-Arbovirus Interactions, funded by the Center for Inegrated Animal Genomics, Iowa State University.  The objective of this research is to use a functional genomics approach, and a virus expressing a reporter gene, to track a virus infection in specific mosquito cells--of interest for their immune-response capacity.

Aedes vexans and Ae. triseriatus and the ecology of West Nile Virus, funded by the Centers for Disease Control. The objective of this research is to assess the potential of these mosquito species to serve as vectors for West Nile Virus, and to determine the extent to which small mammals (that would serve as hosts for these mosquito species) function as reservoirs for the virus. Kenneth Platt (Department of VMPM) and Wayne Rowley (Department of Entomology, ISU) were PI's on this project.