Vector-borne disease research published in Biology Letters - Engineering & Natural Sciences

Vector-borne disease research published in Biology Letters

A paper written by Professor of Biological Science Charles Brown and doctoral student Amy Moore on the spread of vector-borne zoonotic pathogens has been published in the latest edition of the international science journal Biology Letters.

cliff swallows
Professor Charles Brown

In “Dispersing Hemipteran Vectors Have Reduced Arbovirus Prevalence,” Brown and Moore explain the results of research performed on the swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius), an ectoparasite of the cliff swallow. The ectoparasite is considered a bed bug to cliff swallows, living primarily in the birds’ nests and feeding on the swallows’ blood.

During the past decade, Brown, Moore and a team of research assistants studied more than 100 colonies of this vector, screening swallow bug samples for Buggy Creek virus. The team detected notable trends in specimens collected from new nesting sites as well as at established colonies.

“We noticed there was less prevalence of the virus in sites where bugs had recently migrated,” Moore said. “Bugs that successfully migrate by clinging to swallows’ feet are less likely to have the virus.”

TU’s research showing the reduced likelihood of infected bugs dispersing to new colony sites indicates that even heavily infected sites may not always export virus to nearby nests. The results might explain why some virus infections do not spread rapidly.

“We hope these findings prompt people to consider this possibility in other vectors and in species that have more human or economic impact,” Moore said.

Moore said this research could lead to future studies on where vector virus infections are likely to occur, a key to preventing more common and destructive diseases such as the related western equine encephalitis.

Read the TU paper in the April 2014 edition of Biology Letters.

Charles Brown