03:27pm Wednesday 21 August 2019

UC Davis experts on West Nile virus

Epidemiology and ecology of West Nile virus

Entomologist William Reisen studies mosquito-transmitted encephalitis viruses in California, including West Nile virus. Reisen, who is director of the UC Davis Center for Vectorborne Diseases, is particularly interested in determining the mechanisms that allow mosquito-borne diseases to persist in California, and what conditions trigger their amplification and transmission to domestic animals and humans. His current projects range from genetic studies in the laboratory with UC Davis researcher Aaron Brault to field studies involving the epidemiology and ecology of these diseases. His newest research projects with medical entomologist Bruce Eldridge and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography involve using climate variation to forecast mosquito abundance and disease risk, and with Hugh Lothrop and the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District on optimizing the use of ground and aerial insecticides that affect adult mosquitoes in rural environments. Contact: William Reisen, Center for Vectorborne Diseases, (530) 752-0124, wkreisen@ucdavis.edu.

The genetics of West Nile virus

Aaron Brault is a research scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, in Fort Collins, Colo., and at UC Davis serves as an adjunct associate professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology as well as a member of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases within the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. His studies focus on the genetics of West Nile virus and other arthropod-borne viruses, specifically how West Nile viral populations have changed since their introduction to North America in 1999. His research examines how the genetic makeup of the virus controls how the virus infects and reproduces in birds and mosquitoes. This work will have application in developing new diagnostic tests and vaccines for the virus, as well as in estimating risks associated with the emergence of new West Nile viruses with altered disease-causing potential. Contact: Aaron Brault, Center for Vectorborne Diseases, (970) 266-3517, acbrault@ucdavis.edu

Biology of the Culex mosquito

Associate Professor Anthony Cornel of the Mosquito Control Research Laboratory at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, and associate director of the UC Davis Center for Vectorborne Diseases, focuses on the control and biology of the Culex mosquitoes, which transmit West Nile virus. Because resistance to pesticides is important for controlling the spread of West Nile and other diseases, Cornel is studying how mosquitoes process chemical pesticides. The goal of this work is to develop more sensitive tests for detecting and monitoring pesticide resistance in mosquitoes. He also is developing genetic markers for investigating the population structure of Culex mosquitoes that are major carriers of West Nile virus in order to better predict and prevent pesticide resistance and transmission of the disease. He also makes use of Geographic Information System technology to track the impact of agricultural pesticide use on California mosquitoes. Contact: Anthony Cornel, Entomology, (559) 646-6556 ajcornel@ucanr.edu.

Smells that attract mosquitos

Walter Leal, a chemical ecologist and professor of entomology, is an expert on what smells attract mosquitoes. He creates chemical compound mixtures (“stinky solutions”) that attract mosquitoes to traps, so they can be tested for West Nile virus. A past president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology, he can discuss smells that draw mosquitoes and smells that repel them. His research has practical implications for explaining how insects communicate within species, how they detect host and non-host plants, and how insect parasites detect their prey. Contact: Walter Leal, (530)-752-7755, wsleal@ucdavis.edu.

West Nile fever in people

Stuart Cohen, an infectious disease specialist and professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine, can discuss West Nile infection in humans — its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. He also can discuss the possibility of West Nile virus transmission through blood transfusions or organ transplants. Contact through: Charles Casey, Health System Public Affairs, (916) 734-9048, charles.casey@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.

West Nile in horses, livestock, wildlife

Gregory Ferraro is director of the Center for Equine Health at UC Davis. The center has completed a prospective study of the epidemiological and ecological implications of West Nile virus within California during the initial emergence of the virus in the state. The data and analysis of the study were published in various scientific and lay publications to inform the veterinary and public health communities about the parameters of infection and spread of the virus. The researchers concluded from the study that current vaccination recommendations for horses are valid and should be followed annually. Scientists at the equine center continue to monitor the disease in horses and related species to protect the health and welfare of California horses. Contact: Gregory Ferraro, Center for Equine Health, (530) 752-6433, glferraro@ucdavis.edu.

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