Dr. Gideon Wasserberg receives grant from NC Biotechnology Center
UNCG Biology Department Assistant Professor, Dr. Gideon Wasserberg, is the recent recipient of a 'Multidisciplinary Research Grant' from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. The project is entitled -- Development of an oviposition attractive blend for the surveillance and control of the sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi, the vector of old-world Zoonotic Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, and is funded for two years. The abstract of the project is included below. Congratulations Dr. Wasserberg!
ABSTRACT. Very little is understood about the breeding ecology of sand flies, the vectors of human Leishmaniasis worldwide. This limits control to personal protection and adult sand fly control. Therefore, targeting control efforts on gravid females could affect disease transmission by reducing the abundance of blood-fed females and by suppressing the vector's population growth rate. In this study, we propose a systematic integrated approach including behavioral, electrophysiological, and microbiological investigations to elucidate the cues that drive the oviposition behavior of the sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi, the vector of old-world Zoonotic Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (ZCL). Our goal is to develop an attractive lure that will be used to develop an attract-and-kill commercial sand fly trap for the control of P. papatasi sand flies. Our central hypothesis is that gravid sand flies are attracted to a blend of bacterially-derived chemical cues associated with the decomposition of fecal material of their natural host, Psammomys obesus (sand rat), and species-specific metabolites, both of which indicate suitable oviposition sites. Initially, using behavioral bioassays, we will screen a range of source materials of the larval environment of sand flies, including host fecal material, frass, and sand fly matter. Then, using the most attractive source materials, microbiological and electrophysiological analyses will be conducted to isolate and identify the key bacterial species and biologically active compounds comprising the strongest oviposition attractants for gravid female sand flies. Finally, an optimal attractive lure will be developed by behaviorally testing different blends of synthetic analogs and/or bacterially produced attractive compounds.