Mosquito Genetics and Genomics

David Severson

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David W. Severson
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Postdoctoral, University of Wisconsin-Madison

My research interests are directed toward understanding the molecular factors that influence the vectorial capacity of mosquitoes to transmit pathogens to humans. Mosquito-borne diseases have emerged or re-emerged as significant human health problems due to a number of factors including lack of progress in vaccine development, emergence of drug resistance in pathogens and insecticide resistance in mosquitoes, and the decline in socioeconomic conditions in many disease endemic countries that limits disease monitoring and mosquito control efforts. Most of my research involves the mosquito, Aedes aegypti , because it is the primary vector for the yellow fever and dengue fever viruses and also an excellent laboratory model for studying transmission of the avian malarial parasite, Plasmodium gallinaceum , as well as the lymphatic filarioid parasite, Brugia malayi. Dengue is a threat to >2.5 billion people, with an annual incidence estimated at 50-100 million and several hundred thousand cases of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever with ~24,000 cases per year. Nearly 500 million clinical cases of malaria caused by infection with Plasmodium parasites occur each year, resulting in ca. 3 million deaths, mainly among children in subSaharan Africa. Lymphatic filariasis is caused by filarioid nematodes and is the second leading cause of permanent and long-term disability worldwide, with 120 million people annually presenting clinical morbidity. No effective vaccine candidates are available or soon anticipated for preventing transmission of any of these diseases. I am using integrated quantitative and population genetic approaches to investigate molecular aspects of vector competence for these diseases that will rapidly transition information gained from laboratory studies into field studies. This includes DNA-based genetic marker development, an active role in the Aedes aegypti genome project, utilization of genomics tools such as microarrays, and comparative genomics among mosquito species. I have a long-standing program to investigate the population dynamics of Aedes aegypti in Trinidad and Tobago, and am planning for additional efforts in Haiti and Cuba.