Arbovirus Research Program

Chris Barker, doctoral student in entomology, examines mosquito larvae. (Photo by Bill Reisen) Mission: The mission of the Arbovirus Research Program is to enhance our understanding of the epidemiology and ecology of mosquitoborne viruses and develop new tools and strategies for their surveillance and control.

Research within California currently led by Drs. AC Brault and WK Reisen focuses on the endemic encephalitides, western equine encephalomyelitis and St. Louis encephalitis, and their interactions with the introduced virus, West Nile. To study virus natural history in California, we have established study areas at multiple habitats within Riverside, Los Angeles, Kern and Sacramento counties and collaborate closely with local agencies of the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California as well as the Vector-Borne Disease Section and the Viral and Rickettsial Diseases Laboratory of the California Department of Public Health.


A major focus is the examination of mechanisms that allow the persistence and effective amplification of encephalitis viruses in nature and developing tools that forecast the risk of domestic animal and human disease through integration with the Environmental Assessment and Information Technology Program. Projects also evaluate the efficacy of standard and novel adult mosquito control strategies to interrupt virus transmission. Research on West Nile virus is also conducted in the laboratory of Dr. TW Scott. The emphasis of these studies is on mosquito-vertebrate host and mosquito-virus interactions.


International research programs led by Dr. TW Scott focus on the ecology, epidemiology and control of dengue. Genetic strategies for dengue prevention are investigated in Mexico. Longitudinal cohort studies at well established field sites in Peru and Thailand examine fundamental concepts in dengue epidemiology and mosquito ecology, with the ultimate goal of improving tools and strategies for mosquito control and disease prevention. Of particularly interest are the impacts of heterogeneities in patterns of human infection (i.e., spatial, temporal, age, sex, etc.) on the force of virus transmission and how that kind of information can be captured and applied in operationally amenable ways (i.e., surveillance, vector control, vaccine delivery, etc.).


Surveillance activities and reference diagnostics funded through the Mosquito and Vector Control Association and the California Department of Public Health are coordinated at the BSL-3 laboratory by Drs. Reisen and Brault and supervised by Y Fang and M Dannen. Current diagnostics test mosquito pools and dead bird tissues for the California Mosquitoborne Encephalitis Virus Surveillance Program, avian serology for the Wildlife Health Center, avian and samples for Tulsa University.


Support: Research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, University of California Mosquito Research Program, and the Coachella Valley, Greater Los Angeles County, Kern, and Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control Districts.


Selected Publications: