Haley working on a laboratory training video for malaria parasite detection

In collaboration with the Media Studies program at Auburn University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a laboratory training video is being developed to provide virtual training opportunities around the world. The gold standard method for understanding malaria transmission is a protein based assay called the csELISA which can detect infective proteins from malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.) in mosquitoes. This gives a good idea of transmission risk and potential in a region and is very important for malaria surveillance. Typically in person laboratory visits and trainings are used to build capacity to run these assays, but with COVID-19 travel restrictions this is not currently possible.

To overcome this challenge, CDC and Auburn (School of Forestry and Wildlife Studies and the Media Studies Department) are developing a professional training video to share widely. The filming approach and script was developed with undergraduate research fellow, Haley Stephens, who became proficient in the method for her research and who is featured in the film!

Five new ectoparasite species found in gray mouse lemurs

Mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) with a tick feeding on its ear

In this paper we discuss patterns of ectoparasitism in gray mouse lemurs in northwestern Madagascar. We describe infestation patterns of eight ectoparasites and in doing so we found five previously undescribed ectoparasite species! Patterns of louse infestation in this species are similar to what we see in other mouse lemur species with males harboring more lice than females and peaks in louse infestation occurring around the seasonal mating period. Perhaps because this is when males are exchanging lice as we previously found in brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus rufus)


Congrats, Micaela Finney on first author publication! One Health malaria control tool?

In this study first authored by former undergraduate research fellow, Micaela Finney and former grad student, Ben McKenzie and led by Menja Rabaovola we describe feeding behaviors and malaria parasite infection rates in malaria mosquitoes in Madagascar. This paper shows that malaria mosquitoes in southeastern Madagascar largely (over 90%!) feed on livestock and contain cattle or swine bloodmeal. Could veterinary treatment complement malaria control? There is evidence that common veterinary dewormers (such as ivermectin) make blood toxic to mosquitoes. This means that treating livestock with dewormers could potentially help with mosquito control! Mosquitoes were also tested for the presence of human malaria parasites and two types were found, including one that is rarely reported in human malaria cases (Plasmodium vivax) but the infective stage was VERY common in mosquitoes!


UN Environmental Program describes coevolution effect in Preventing the Next Pandemic document

In a unique document produced by the United Nations Environment Programme a guideline for preventing the next pandemic through environmental mitigation strategies was produced. This document outlines specific One Health steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk of spillover of zoonotic diseases that have epidemic/pandemic potential.

In this document, the coevolution effect, a hypothesis we developed in collaboration with the Schwartz and Oaks labs at Auburn University, was mentioned as a potential explanation of the underlying mechanisms describing how pathogens from wild animals emerge into human populations leading to epidemics.

Recording mosquitoes with cell phones to see if they have parasites!

In Doyeon’s first first author publication she used cell phones to record the wingbeats of mosquitoes infected with heartworm parasites and non-infected mosquitoes. Wingbeat recordings can be used to identify mosquito species and she wanted to see if these recordings could also be used to identify whether mosquitoes are infected with parasites or not!

She found that there is no significant difference between infected and non infected mosquitoes, but as mosquitoes have an increase in the number of infective worms (L3) stage, wingbeat frequency decreases significantly!

Very cool to work with AU CVM on this project with world renowned heartworm scientists and the team that invented ABUZZ-for cell phone identification of mosquito species!

Deer keds and new Bartonella sp. in white-tailed deer from Alabama

Great work to Shelby Zikeli and Katie Izenour for putting together this paper on ecotparasite from white-tailed deer in Alabama and the Bartonella spp. found in them. This was work that Shelby did for her Master’s thesis working with the AU Deer Lab. In a small population of deer in a well-known field side, ectoparasites, including Lipoptena mazamae, the neotropical deer ked were described and through screening of blood from deer and ectoparasites, Shelby found 4 Bartonella species! Three that are known zoonotic pathogens: Bartonella bovis, Bartonella schoenbuchensis, and Bartonella melophagi!

Also, in this study site in Alabama she also found deer and their keds to have a new clade of Bartonella sp. 1! Sometimes you can find new microbes in your own backyard, literally!

Check out the paper here

Some people confuse these deer keds with ticks. A good way to distinguish them is the number of legs they have. Keds are insects with 6 legs, ticks have 8!
Check out this new species of Bartonella sp. found in deer and their ectoparasites (keds)

Congratulations, Katie Izenour! You’re a Fulbright Fellow!

Very proud of PhD student, Katie Izenour, who was just awarded a year long Fulbright fellowship to study zoonotic pathogens in domestic animals in Cairo, Egypt. Katie volunteered at an animal shelter in Cairo a few years ago and realized that the public health impact that zoonotic pathogens may have on this heavily populated and often underrepresented region of the world may have. We are very proud of Katie and can’t wait to hear about her experiences!

Aedes albopictus is a competent vector of Zika virus

Grad student Ben Mckenzie’s first author publication was just released. In this paper, Ben used a meta-analysis approach to understanding vector competence in Ae. albopictus, an invasive mosquito with nearly worldwide distribution, for Zika virus.

Ben’s work is unique in that very few scientists have used this approach to synthesize and analyze laboratory studies of vector competence, which often have disparate results and different laboratory conditions (different mosquito and viral strains, source of bloodmeal, etc.).

Great work, Ben!


photo credit: CDC, DVBD