Revolutionizing Control of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases

Zika. West Nile. Yellow Fever. Dengue. These dangerous diseases are transmitted through insects such as mosquitos, ticks, blackflies, and sandflies, all of which feed off on blood during part or all stages of their lifecycle. Catherine Hill, professor of entomology, and her multidisciplinary team are striving to find a cure to the myriad of diseases spread through these arthropod vectors. Although research on such disease transmission has been the subject of medical research, the typical approach has been to destroy the virus by terminating the insect.

This Purdue research team has a revolutionary approach, with sustainability in mind.

Hill and her team approached this dilemma by developing a chemical compound that will block the virus transmission from mosquitos to humans in a way that will not harm either the insect or its host, eliminating the risk for such infections. The team acknowledges the fact that getting rid of mosquitos, ticks, and other insects would be harmful to the environment and dangerous in the long-term, as these insects play a crucial role in our ecosystem. The team of political scientists, communicators, chemists, pharmacologists and entomologists aims to take control of the matter within the next 5-10 years. Once the team collects sufficient data on the behavioral and biological changes in the insects, they intend to commercialize these new chemicals and bring them to market to protect humans, insects and our fragile ecosystem in a new and innovative way.

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“I don’t want this to languish in the lab. Everything we do in the lab is about application. The mindset has always been to move it out of the lab as quickly as possible, so it’s a rapid trajectory,” Catherine Hill says.

Read full Purdue Newsroom press release

Team Photos

Principal Investigator: Catherine Hill, professor of entomology and vector biology, Department of Entomology

Team: Val J. Watts, professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology; Leigh Raymond, professor of political science; Dan Flaherty, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology; Richard J. Kuhn, Trent and Judith Anderson Distinguished Professor in Science; Director, Purdue Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease; Michael E. Scharf, professor of entomology; Linda Pfeiffer, assistant professor of youth development and agricultural education