The Mosquito Control Laboratory (MCL)
There are no effective vaccines against malaria or most arboviruses. There are no chemotherapeutants for the treatment of arbovirus infection. Mosquito surveillance, management and manipulation remain the mainstays of most mosquito-borne disease control programs. The Mosquito Control Laboratory (MCL) manages state-of-the art pathogen and insect containment facilities with the capacity to undertake studies on all aspects of vector biology and disease transmission. We work on innovations in mosquito surveillance and control that might help interrupt parasite and pathogen transmission.
We are unique in the Southern Hemisphere with regard to our size, capacity and expertise. This makes us a key partner in a national, regional and international network. Our presence significantly enhances Australia’s ability to investigate emerging vector-borne disease threats in the region. A major remit of the refurbished (2013), MCL is to exploit this unique facility through building strong collaborative links with parasitology, virology and vector biology laboratories throughout the world.
The MCL has permission to hold a number of exotic mosquito species in addition to native Australian mosquitoes. These include insecticide-resistant and susceptible Aedes aegypti strains, Aedes albopictus and Anopheles farauti. The MCL has local access to real-world mosquito-virus transmission systems through a number of native mosquito vectors and their associated alphaviruses (including Ross River and Barmah Forest) and flaviviruses (dengue). We also have field work in progress in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
HIGHLIGHTS OF RECENT FINDINGS
Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infect more than 400 million people each year with dangerous viral pathogens including dengue, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya. Progress in understanding the biology of mosquitoes and developing the tools to fight them has been slowed by the lack of a high-quality genome assembly. Here we combine diverse technologies to produce the markedly improved, fully re-annotated AaegL5 genome assembly, and demonstrate how it accelerates mosquito science. Using high-resolution quantitative trait locus and population genomic analyses, we mapped new candidates for dengue vector competence and insecticide resistance (glutathione S-transferase genes).
Medically important arboviruses such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya viruses are primarily transmitted by the globally distributed mosquito Aedes aegypti. RNA-Seq was used to characterize RNA metaviromes of wild-caught Ae. aegypti from Bangkok (Thailand) and from Cairns (Australia). The two mosquito populations showed a high degree of similarity in their viromes. BLAST assembled contigs suggest up to 27 insect-specific viruses may infect Ae. aegypti, with up to 23 of these currently uncharacterized and up to 16 infecting mosquitoes from both Cairns and Bangkok. As expected, mosquitoes from Bangkok showed higher mitochondrial diversity and carried alleles associated with knock-down resistance to pyrethroids. Blood meal reads primarily mapped to human genes, with a small number also showing rat/mouse and dog genes.
Zakrzewski M, Rasic G, Darbro J, Krause L, Poo YS, Filiovic I, Parry R, Asgari S, Devine GJ, Suhrbier A. Mapping the virome in wild-caught Aedes aegypti from Cairns and Bangkok. Scientific Reports 2018;8 469
Evaluation of accuracy and practicality of mosquito age grading methods based on changes to mosquito morphology; including the Detinova ovarian tracheation, midgut meconium, Polovodova ovariole dilatation, ovarian injection, and daily growth line methods. Laboratory maintained Aedes vigilax and Culex annulirostris females of known chronological and physiological ages were used for these assessments. In summary, morphological age grading methods that offer simple two-category predictions (ovarian tracheation and midgut meconium methods) were found to provide high-accuracy classifications, whereas methods that offer the separation of multiple age categories (ovariolar dilatation and growth line methods) were found to be extremely difficult and of low accuracy.
Brisbane premises where Aedes notoscriptus was present (green dots) or absent (red dots) in domestic containers during a 2010–2012 yard survey (data in Heersink et al., 2015). It is expected that Aedes albopictus could utilize similar breeding habitats (green dots) to facilitate its establishment. Aedes albopictus is an invasive mosquito, aggressive biter and disease vector (e.g. dengue, Zika). Its establishment in Europe and the Americas resulted in local disease transmission and impacted quality of outdoor recreational activities.
Darbro J, Halasa Y, Montgomery B, Muller M, Shepard D, Devine G, et al. An economic analysis of the threats posed by the establishment of Aedes albopictus in Brisbane, Queensland. Ecological Economics. 2017;142:203-13
- Associate Professor Greg Devine, Group Leader
- Dr Leon Hugo, Senior Research Officer
- Dr Gordana Rašić, Senior Research Officer
- Dr Oselyne Ong, Research Officer
- Dr Narayan Gyawali, P/T Research Assistant
- Dr Brian Johnson, MARC Scientist
- Mrs Melissa Graham, Research Assistant
- Mr Igor Filipovic, P/T Research Assistant
Ph.D. Candidates (current)
- Ms Lisa Rigby (University of Queensland) – insecticide resistance adaptations and implications for the transmission of vector-borne disease
- Mr Chen Wu (University of Queensland) – biology of natural Wolbachia infections in Australian mosquito species
- Ms Amanda Murphy (Queensland University of Technology) – exploring the underlying determinants of Ross River virus (RRV) epidemics in SE Queensland
- Mr Omezie Ekwudu (Queensland University of Technology) – dengue transmission in Australian populations of Aedes aegypti and Ae albopictus
Ph.D. Candidates (Recently graduated)
- Dr Brendan Trewin – invasion pathways for exotic mosquitoes (University of Queensland). Brendan is currently a post-doctoral fellow at CSIRO
- Dr Silvia Ciocchetta – public health risks posed by Aedes koreicus (Queensland University of Technology). Silvia is now in Samoa with the Task Force for Global Health, Atlanta, USA
- Dr Jill Ulrich– Forecasting the future of mosquito-borne disease control (University of Miami). Jill is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Queensland
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