Vector Biology News Releases

NIH Scientists Show How Tularemia Bacteria Trick Cells to Cause Disease
May 30, 2018

Francisella tularensis is the bacterium that causes tularemia, a life-threatening disease spread to humans via contact with an infected animal or through mosquito, tick or deer fly bites.  As few as 10 viable bacteria can cause the disease, which has a death rate of up to 60 percent. Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—part of the National Institutes of Health—have unraveled the process by which the bacteria cause disease. They found that F. tularensis tricks host cell mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell, in two different phases of infection. In the first eight hours of infection, the bacteria increase mitochondria function, which inhibits cell death and prevents the cell from mounting an inflammatory response to avoid an immune system attack. In the 24 hours after, the bacteria impair mitochondrial function, undergo explosive replication and spread. These basic science findings could play a role in developing effective treatment strategies, according to the researchers.

NIH-Funded Researchers Identify Target for Chikungunya Treatment
May 21, 2018

Scientists have identified a molecule found on human cells and some animal cells that could be a useful target for drugs against chikungunya virus infection and related diseases, according to new research published in the journal Nature. A team led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis conducted the research, which was funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Disease Resistance Successfully Spread from Modified to Wild Mosquitoes
September 28, 2017

Using genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes to reduce or prevent the spread of infectious diseases is a new but rapidly expanding field of investigation. Among the challenges researchers face is ensuring that GM mosquitoes can compete and mate with their wild counterparts so the desired modification is preserved and spread in the wild population. Investigators at Johns Hopkins University have engineered GM mosquitoes to have an altered microbiota that suppresses human malaria-causing parasites.

Scientists Develop Infection Model for Tick-borne Flaviviruses
August 22, 2017

National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists have filled a research gap by developing a laboratory model to study ticks that transmit flaviviruses, such as Powassan virus.  Powassan virus was implicated in the death of a New York man earlier this year. The unusual model involves culturing organs taken from Ixodes scapularis ticks and then infecting those organ cultures with flaviviruses, according to researchers at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, part of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

NIH Begins Study of Vaccine to Protect Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases
February 21, 2017

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has launched a Phase 1 clinical trial to test an investigational vaccine intended to provide broad protection against a range of mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as Zika, malaria, West Nile fever and dengue fever, and to hinder the ability of mosquitoes to transmit such infections. The study, which is being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will examine the experimental vaccine’s safety and ability to generate an immune response. 

World Malaria Day 2016
April 25, 2016

On World Malaria Day 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes the considerable gains that have been made in reducing the global burden of malaria and renews our commitment to conducting and supporting the cutting-edge scientific research needed to end the scourge of this devastating mosquito-borne disease.

Tick Genome Reveals Secrets of a Successful Bloodsucker
February 9, 2016

With tenacity befitting their subject, an international team of nearly 100 researchers toiled for a decade and overcame tough technical challenges to decipher the genome of the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis). 

NIH Study Reveals Risk of Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreading to Africa
October 20, 2015

Drug-resistant forms of Plasmodium falciparum can infect the type of mosquito that is the main transmitter of malaria in Africa. The discovery suggests Africa is more at risk for drug-resistant malaria infections than previously thought, which could further compromise efforts to prevent and eliminate the disease.