Dale Mabry Biology Students Aim to Identify Virus and Bacterial Species in Tampa Bay Mosquito Populations
Dale Mabry students, Lester Castillo and Lacy Flake, prepare mosquito samples for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) analysis.
Preliminary gel electrophoresis data shown is from target mosquito DNA.
Four biology students are participating in the first undergraduate research course offered at the Dale Mabry campus. Lacy Flake, Lester Castillo, Jennifer Cueller, and Kristi Layne are working on a research project involving the collection and analysis of local mosquitoes. The state of Florida typically reports an elevated number of mosquito borne illness due to the subtropical climate and increased global travel. Understanding mosquito infections at the local level can provide important predictive indicators of transmission activity levels associated with elevated human risk. The public health impact of the student’s research plan is to assess the level of Flaviviruses, Wolbachia species, and Dirofilaria immiti in the Tampa Bay mosquito population.
Flavivirus is a family of viruses that includes West Nile, Dengue Fever, Yellow fever and St.Louis Encephalitis viruses. Wolbachia is a bacterial species that may be used to control dengue and malaria by reducing the lifespan of the adult mosquito. The use of the naturally existing strains of Wolbachia to control mosquito populations has also been a recent research interest of many scientists and may provide a form of biological control. Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. The heartworm is a type of filaria, a small thread-like worm that is a common infection in dogs.
Mosquitoes were collected and donated by Dr. Carlos Fernandes, Hillsborough County’s Manager of Mosquito Control. The students are using a molecular technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to identify the viral and bacterial species. Specific target DNA is amplified then visually analyzed by gel electrophoresis. The amplified DNA will be sent to a facility that will determine the exact genetic code, which can be useful for making detailed comparisons. The number and existence of these species in the local area of Tampa Bay has yet to be explored in detail, therefore giving the HCC students a unique research opportunity.
The students will present their complete findings at the Dale Mabry Science Seminar Series on April 3rd.
Article Written By: John Whitlock and Jennifer Bess.