Sand flies and other bloodsucking insects have been around for millions of years. They are known to have fed on dinosaurs, there are still reptile feeding sand flie around today. George and Roberta Poinar have studied fossil amber and found 100 million year old sand flies from amber created in the dinosaur era. These sand flies were found to contain Leishmania parasites in their proboscis; thus Leishmania might have plagued the dinosaurs and even helped force them into extinction.
A scientific paper giving more details of the technique of examining sand flies in dominicon amber is given in this link….
Lutzomyia adiketis sp. n. (Diptera: Phlebotomidae), a vector of Paleoleishmania neotropicum sp. n. (Kinetoplastida: Trypanosomatidae) in Dominican amber.
Leishmaniasis is an important disease and the parasite is transmitted by blood-sucking sand flies with approximately two million new cases every year and one tenth of the world’s population at risk of infection. The WHO give a good introduction about the current situation around the world regarding Leishmaniasis.
Leishmania are parasites transmitted by the bite of the small midge–like phlebotomine sand fly.
One of the main ways to control leishmaniasis is to control the insect or disrupt the insect part of the parasite life cycle but our knowledge of the sand fly in relation to development of the parasite is inadequate for developing new targets for control.
One of my main projects is to identify the genes involved in the interaction of the sand fly and the parasite that it transmits and this will greatly extend our knowledge of the interaction between insect and Leishmania and provide a sound basis for developing new control systems for this disease. We are also involved in field based research examining sand fly biology and the spread of the disease in urban environments in N.E. Brazil.
Short Video clips of sand fly collecting sites in Teresina Brazil.
More backyard sand fly collecting from Rod Dillon on Vimeo.
- Afghanistan hit by skin disease (bbc.co.uk) People in Kabul are suffering from leishmaniasis; in this case the less serious cutaneous form of the disease. However this causes unsightly skin lesions and carries social stigma and may prevent young girls from finding a suitable partner.
- Observations of a Nerd Ah, the joys of a tropical getaway. There’s warm, clear waters, soft, sandy beaches, and of course, a whole ton of amazing parasites waiting to gorge on your delicious flesh……..
Mosquito Shootdown Sequence: Video clips showing mosquitoes being killed by lasers. If played in real time, these segments would be roughly 1/10th of a second long. These high speed photographic images of mosquitoes were captured by Intellectual Ventures Laboratory scientists using a Vision Research Phantom V12.1, shooting at up to 6,000 frames per second.
- Gene-silencing nanoparticles take the fight against mosquitoes down to the genetic level (gizmag.com) This is related to gene silencing experiments we do with sandflies in our lab in Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Except in our case we inject individual sand flies with a mix that targets individaul genes to stop being expressed.
This is a blog about my interests in science and art and how I am working within and between the boundaries of the two. There will be posts on my current research on the tropical disease leishmaniasis and the insects (sand flies) that spread the disease and my interests in microbes. Also stuff that interests me where artists are working on an equal footing and in close collaboration with scientists.
My journey into ‘artscience’ for want of a better word started in Liverpool during Capital of Culture year 2008. I was desperate to do some art work related to my research on tropical diseases; the superlambanana wagon came along and I hitched onto it and got the LSTM to sponsor a lambanana. That was when SuperKalazarlambanana…the name that was far too complicated and everyone mispelt, was created one afternoon between myself and my PhD student Hector Diaz. (see also LSTM page on our lambanana).