Developing a fieldable viral detection toolkit and identifying invasive species and bloodmeal preference in Texas mosquitoes.


Mosquitoes are arguably responsible for more human deaths than any other single cause in human history. They have had a tremendous impact on human existence and have influenced the rise and fall of societies. They exist as a highly diverse group of organisms across six continents comprised of over thirty-five hundred species. Only a tenth are known to disseminate pathogens that cause debilitating diseases, which include Zika virus, Dengue fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Despite so few species acting as disease vectors, mosquitoes continue to exert significant negative impacts on public health, especially in low and middle income countries. Therefore, continuing efforts to understand their distributions and factors that affect disease transmission cycles are greatly needed. Accurate identification of species is paramount due to the sparse number of species implicit in pathogen transmission. Morphological identification, a cheap and highly portable technique, allows for discernment without the need for taxonomical expertise. Differences in fourth instar and adult morphology allow for identification of specimen to the species level. For more similar species, or damaged specimens, researchers can shift to barcoding. Barcoding, or using molecular sequence polymorphisms, provide species level identification. This method is efficient in elucidating vector host interactions as they can determine from what species a bloodmeal may be from. By understanding and recognizing interactions between species and bloodmeal host, we can tailor response strategies to have more profound impacts. Pathogen transmission is a consequence of vector host interactions. Rapid detection and a rapid response to threats is critical for successful mosquito surveillance and abatement programs. Knowledge and capability gaps exist, with the most critical being the availability of portable and effective diagnostic tools for individual use. CRISPR-Cas12 detection assays have high ease of use, high on-target specificity, and portability. This technique could prove paramount because it has demonstrated the ability to detect HIV and COVID-19. Guided by target specific crRNA, enzymes are able detect minuscule amounts of complementary target sequences. Packaged with isothermal amplification and lateral flow detection, these assays can facilitate future improvements in surveillance and controlled efforts to disrupt the transmission of mosquito-borne illnesses in a fielded format.