Malaria & other vector borne diseases

Insects transmit approximately 17% of global infectious disease in humans. Malaria alone kills over half a million children each year and the incidence of other mosquito borne diseases such as dengue and Chikungunya is increasing rapidly.

Six of the 17 ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’ listed by WHO are transmitted by insect vectors and one involves a snail intermediate host.

LSTM has a long track record of pioneering research in vector biology. The transmission of malaria by mosquitoes was established by Ronald Ross, a British doctor working in India who became LSTM’s first lecturer in 1899. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery in 1902. LSTM’s work in Sierra Leone also led to the discovery that river blindness is transmitted by blackflies.

Today LSTM hosts the largest concentration of medical entomologists in the UK with a research profile that spans from functional genomics of disease vectors to clinical trials; implementation research and the development of tools for monitoring and evaluation of disease transmission.

In addition to our well-equipped research laboratories, we have access to state of the art genomics and proteomics facilities via our excellent collaborations with the Sanger Institute and University of Liverpool.

Our insectary suite consists of 14 environmentally controlled rooms. These contain the largest tsetse fly colony in the UK and a wide range of different mosquito species; two category 3 insectaries; two insecticide testing laboratories and two free flying rooms for studies on insect behaviour

LSTM has major field projects which evaluate, implement and monitor vector control activities in Africa and Asia. LSTM works closely with a range of partners to ensure our research and educational programmes are responsive to the needs of disease endemic countries.

Strengthening capacity in vector biology is a major component of our work. As an example, 11 of the 14 Wellcome Trust Public Health and Tropical Medicine Fellowships in vector biology are sponsored by faculty within LSTM’s Vector Biology Department.

LSTM also runs short courses and MSc programmes on the biology and control of disease vectors.

LSTM lead several international vector control consortia and hosts the Liverpool Insecticide Testing Establishment (LITE), which provides GLP standard evaluation of new insect control tools and maintains one of the largest collection of fully characterised insecticide resistant mosquito populations in the world.

Our excellent links with innovators, policy makers and implementers ensure that advances in approaches to reduce the transmission of vector borne diseases are translated into improvement in the health of those most at risk.

LSTM and vector borne diseases: Cross-sector expertise

Product evaluation

From professional laboratory screening services provided by LITE to evaluation under operational settings in the field: LSTM supports the development and evaluation of new vector control products across the entire pipeline.

Policy and guidelines

With a mission to improve research uptake, LSTM regularly contributes to guidelines and global policies on control of vector borne diseases including malaria surveillance; management of insecticide resistance and control strategies for dengue; trypanosomiasis and visceral leishmaniasis.

Technical assistance

LSTM has a long track record in providing long term technical advice and support in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national and regional control programmes against vector borne diseases including malaria, trypanosomiasis and filariasis.

Applied health research

Entomologists, anthropologists and economists are working together to improve the cost effectiveness and ease of use of new methods of vector control. LSTM is also developing and implementing disease data management systems to monitor interventions and evaluate impact.

Diagnostics

LSTM is translating basic research into molecular diagnostic tools for monitoring resistance and the development of insecticide quantification kits for insecticide monitoring.

Capacity strengthening

In addition to training and mentoring of vector biologists via short visits, MSc programmes and PhDs, LSTM leads training programmes for environmental health technicians in the UK Ministry of Defence and contributes in vector control quality assurance workshops and provides on the ground training in diagnostic tools.

Genomics and genome modification

LSTM developed technologies allow for manipulation of gene expression in specific body parts of vectors facilitating studies on insect immunity and basic vector biology. Population genomics approaches are being applied to address challenges in vector control.

Containment facilities

LSTM has facilities for culturing category 3 pathogens and for infecting vectors with these pathogens. This coupled with LSTM’s expertise in vector biology, parasitology and clinical medicine makes it an ideal environment for vector competence studies.

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