Research Projects

Rebekah Kading Laboratory

Potential of North American mosquitoes to transmit and maintain Rift Valley fever virus

Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) (family Bunyaviridae, genus Phlebovirus) is an emerging zoonotic mosquito-borne virus endemic to Africa. RVFV poses a threat for introduction into new areas including the United States where it has the potential to cause significant economic losses to the livestock industry as well as substantial human morbidity and mortality. The objective of this research is to specifically address knowledge gaps regarding our understanding of the potential for North American mosquitoes to transmit RVFV, potential maintenance mechanisms of RVFV in competent North American vectors, and the entomological risk factors surrounding livestock feed lots in the United States.

Ecology, Epidemiology, and Biosurveillance for emerging viral pathogens of Ugandan bats

This project will generate novel data on bat species distributions using acoustic monitoring and GPS tracking technologies, assess the potential exposure of people to specific bat-borne pathogens, human risk for contracting pathogens in high-traffic caves, the potential role of citizen science, and the influence of bat dispersal patterns on local virus distribution. Partner institutions include Colorado State University, Uganda Virus Research Institute, Makerere University, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Surveillance of Mosquito and Arbovirus Dispersal Using Smart Microcrystals

Technology for marking mosquitos is quite limited in terms of information content and efficacy. The Lab is engineering and field testing a new class of biomarkers, in which DNA is protected within tough, crosslinked protein crystals. The crystals will surveil mosquito dispersal and include molecular surveillance by converting the presence of RNA from West Nile Virus into a fluorescence signal.

Transstadial inhibition of Rift Valley Fever virus infection in Ae. aegypti mosquitoes

We recently demonstrated high transovarial infection rates of Ae. aegypti and Cx. tarsalis mosquitoes with Rift Valley fever virus, however an unknown mechanism is resulting in the blockage of transstadial transmission of RVFV from immature to adult Ae. aegypti following oviposition.  This project will test two hypotheses that this inhibition is influenced by 1) environmental temperature of the larval habitat, and/or 2) mosquito innate immune activity during the larval stages.  The data generated in these studies will determine the efficiency by which RVFV would be maintained in these two North American mosquito vectors and provide novel data for modeling RVFV establishment potential, in the event this high consequence virus is introduced to the United States.