The Laboratory for Vector Biology and Bacterial Pathogens has two primary focus areas:
Utilizing Molecular Tools, Functional Genomics, and Animal Models to Investigate Vector-Pathogen Interactions
This project builds on recent work reporting tick transmission of relapsing fever spirochetes and genome sequencing of both the pathogen and tick vector. We have utilized both next generation and third generation sequencing technologies to investigate a number of outstanding questions in the field. We have also performed transcriptional studies on the tick to further understand how relapsing fever spirochetes adapt to the arthropod vector. Our goal by utilizing whole genome and transcriptomic analyses is to better understand vector-pathogens interactions and identify novel areas of intervention for both the vector and pathogen.
Defining the Ecology of Pathogens Transmitted by Argasid Ticks
Argasid (soft bodied) ticks not only transmit relapsing fever spirochetes but also African swine fever virus, an emerging and highly contagious pathogen with high mortality rates in domestic pigs. Through multi institutional collaborations, we utilize diagnostic assays to evaluate mammalian exposure to soft ticks and the pathogens they transmit. Moreover, we are investigating the distribution of argasids through population genetic studies and their maintenance in nature. These projects will define the disease burden and ecology in regions of the globe where the pathogens are ignored.
Our laboratory has dedicated research space as well as shared space at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. We have in house equipment for fluorescent microscopy, real-time PCR, gel imaging and documentation, ELISA, and a BSL-2 insectary for maintaining tick vectors.