UA Team Receives $2.3M to Track Dengue Transmission

The mosquito species Aedes aegypti is a dangerous carrier of the virus that causes dengue fever. With an NIH grant worth more than $2 million, Kacey Ernst and a team of UA scientists will track populations of A. aegypti between Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico and Tucson. (Photo credit: NIH)
The mosquito species Aedes aegypti is a dangerous carrier of the virus that causes dengue fever. With an NIH grant worth more than $2 million, Kacey Ernst and a team of UA scientists will track populations of A. aegypti between Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico and Tucson. (Photo credit: NIH)

Like many successful predators, Aedes aegypti’s hunting patterns closely follow the daily rhythms of its prey.

“One of the most interesting things about them is how closely they are tied to humans and human activity,” said Kacey Ernst, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Ernst heads a team of UA scientists that recently received $2.3 million from the National Institutes of Health to study populations of A. aegypti that inhabit the region between Guaymas, Mexico and Southern Arizona.

Co-principal investigators with Ernst include Yves Carrière, Kathleen Walker and Michael Riehle of the UA department of entomology, and Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost and also of the UA School of Geography and Development.

“They prefer to bite the first three hours after sunup and three hours before sundown,” said Ernst, talking about the mosquito species that carries the virus that causes dengue fever, which affects as many as 100 million people worldwide each year.

Very few cases of dengue typically are seen in the U.S., Ernst said. The most recent outbreaks occurred in Key West and Miami, Fla., and in Brownsville, Texas, but they subsided after control efforts were implemented to reduce the amount of contact people had with the disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Across the southern border, however, is a different story. “There is actually a lot of dengue transmission in Mexico even as far north as Hermosillo, only about 200 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Ernst.

It has been suggested that the disparity in dengue transmission on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border is a result of different social factors, Ernst said.

Read the rest of this September 26 UANews article at the link below.

Date released: 
Sep 27 2012
Contact: 
Kacey Ernst