Vector Biology Translational and Clinical Research

Research moves from basic into translational and then clinical phases after scientists have identified and tested potential targets and approaches for vector control in the laboratory. These stages of research are focused on the assessment of field testing new and improved products and techniques. 

Translational research investigates the following:

  • Insecticides
  • Larvicides
  • Repellents
  • Biologicals (symbionts/microbiome, fungi, bacteria)
  • Traps
  • Transgenics

Examples of Products Developed Through NIAID Support

NIAID-funded researchers at MosquitoMate are evaluating the use of Wolbachia bacteria to reduce mosquito populations. 

Credit: MosquitoMate
NIAID translational research has been instrumental in the development and evaluation of novel approaches to curb the transmission of vector-borne diseases. For example, NIAID is supporting research to develop a way to decrease mosquito populations by infecting male mosquitoes with Wolbachia bacteria. Male mosquitoes do not bite, and when Wolbachia-infected males mate with wild female mosquitoes, the males effectively sterilize the females and thwart the development of offspring. With NIAID funding MosquitoMate has developed the male-infecting technology for two species of mosquito—Aedes aegypti and Ae. albopictus—vectors of dengue, Zika, and other viruses.

NIAID also supported the development of an autocidal gravid ovitrap (AGO), which works by luring egg-laden mosquitoes into a trap and then preventing them from actually laying the eggs. This reduces the population of Ades aegypti and Ae. albopictus mosquitoes. The device was initially designed by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was developed for the commercial market by SpringStar, Inc.” 

NIAID also is supporting the development of safer larvicides. For example, SPLAT Bac consists of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which is toxic only to mosquito larvae, encapsulated in a proprietary waxy substance. This wax matrix contains pheromones that attract female mosquitoes. When SPLAT Bac is applied to a body of water, female mosquitoes are drawn to the area to lay their eggs. After the eggs hatch, the bacteria in SPLAT Bac kill the larvae, halting the next generation of mosquitoes. SPLAT Bac is being developed by ISCA Technologies.

These approaches are designed to reduce or suppress the populations of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.

Clinical Research

NIAID is funding the development of novel products against infectious disease vectors, including mosquito traps like SpringStar’s autocidal gravid ovitrap (AGO). 

Credit: SpringStar
After a product has been tested in the field for efficacy and safety and has received regulatory approvals, it can be assessed for its public health impact through clinical trials. This phase generates evidence that can help determine if a vector intervention is adequate for preventing or controlling a specific vector-borne disease in a particular community or geographic location. 

Clinical outcomes and evaluation of products looks at the following:

  • Site selection
  • Study design
  • Monitoring
  • Community engagement

Vector Biology Clinical Trials

NIAID currently is conducting and supporting several vector biology clinical trials. For example, researchers are assessing the public health impact of Oxitec’s Ae. aegypti mosquitoes in the transmission of dengue in Brazil. These transgenic mosquitoes contain a self-limiting gene that, when passed on to offspring, prevent the offspring from surviving into adulthood, reducing mosquito populations. The trial is being conducted through the NIAID-funded Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units program.

NIAID is also supporting investigators looking at the potential of mass drug administration of ivermectin for the control of Anopheles vectors of malaria in Burkina Faso.

Finally, NIAID is conducting a Phase I clinical trial at the NIH Clinical Center to test an investigational vaccine based on mosquito saliva proteins intended to provide broad protection against a range of mosquito-transmitted diseases. The investigational vaccine, called AGS-v, is designed to trigger an immune response to mosquito saliva rather than to a specific pathogen carried by mosquitoes. The test vaccine contains four synthetic proteins from mosquito salivary glands. The proteins are designed to induce antibodies in a vaccinated individual and to cause a modified allergic response that can prevent infection when a person is bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito.

Content last reviewed on March 15, 2019