Vector competence: we routinely conduct assessments of virus transmission. This is crucial in a field where there is so much interest in emerging viruses and in the capacity of local mosquitoes to mediate their transmission. Much of this work is done in close collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology and exploits their role as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus Reference and Research.
The ecology of Ross River virus: Ross River Fever is a zoonotic disease whose transmission involves multiple vector and host species. We are investigating the spatiotemporal patterns of transmission across three major cities of South East Queensland using human case data, faunal surveys, mosquito collections and the identification of mosquito blood-meals.
Wolbachia-mosquito interactions: in partnership with the University of Queensland (UQ) and Michigan State University we back-crossed Wolbachia into native Aedes aegypti and developed the “release package” that allowed males from this strain to be released into the wild. We shared that strain with James Cook University for field studies conducted in and around Innisfail (North Queensland). The purpose of these studies was to determine whether male-only releases of this strain could be used to suppress wild population of Aedes aegypti. No other facility in Australia had the requisite facilities and permissions for the creation, characterisation and release of this strain.
New insecticidal control tools: we are developing new approaches to insecticide application including the use of female mosquitoes to carry insect hormone analogues to their own breeding sites (“auto-dissemination”) and the deployment of “volatile pyrethroids” as part of an improved dengue or Zika outbreak response. These techniques are being trialled in Europe and the Americas.
Zooprophylaxis for malaria control – in collaboration with James McCarthy’s lab at QIMRB, we are investigating whether the treatment of pigs and dogs with ivermectin might be a way fo reducing Anopheles farauti populations in Papua New Guinea, complement bed net distribution and decrease malaria transmission.
Surveillance – mosquito longevity is the key to predicting a mosquito’s ability to spread disease. Only old mosquitoes survive long enough to transmit viruses or parasites. We are developing Near Infra-Red Spectroscopy as a fast, cheap method of determining mosquito age.
Biosecurity and invasion risk – we work with the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to understand the implications of the increasing numbers of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes being intercepted at Australia’s ports. We have demonstrated how changing patterns of water storage may help new mosquitoes colonise Brisbane and we have estimated the costs of those invasions in terms of lost recreational opportunities and a precautionary public health response.
Mosquito genomics –we are working with a range of local and international partners to understand the population dynamics and structure of disease vectors, particularly Aedes aegypti. This will help target insecticides and inform the design of Wolbachia or GM release strategies.