A Partnership with the Texas Department of Health to Detect Wolbachia in Harris County Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are known for housing a variety of nasty diseases, from Zika to dengue to yellow fever. As the weather begins to warm up, we want to enjoy the warm Texas sun. Unfortunately, so do the mosquitoes. Since these blood sucking creatures carry a variety of diseases, they make it difficult to enjoy the summertime. Mosquitoes that are infected with the bacteria Wolbachia however, have a reduced ability to transmit viruses to people, such as Zika or dengue. Dr. Sanchita Bhadra of the Ellington Lab in collaboration with Dr. Tim Riedel and his students in the DIY Diagnostics Freshman Research Initiative stream have developed an easy way to test mosquitoes to find out if they carry Wolbachia within tens of minutes, using LAMP-OSD. 

Earlier this year, Drs. Dagne Duguma and Mustapha Debboun from the Harris County Mosquito and Vector Control Division of the Texas Department of Health visited UT Austin to observe a demo of the Wolbachia test. They talked in detail with Dr. Bhadra and DIY Diagnostics undergraduate researcher, Simren Lakhotia, regarding application of this LAMP-OSD technology to facilitate vector surveillance in Harris County. “The representatives from Harris County were visiting us because they are interested in using our LAMP-OSD assay to test for Wolbachia in mosquitoes,” explains Dr. Bhadra. “We are getting ready to send them 100 Wolbachia tests, with which they will test mosquitoes collected from various regions in Harris County” she further stated. If successful, this pilot test will set the groundwork for developing and applying a larger suite of molecular testing methods for vector surveillance. By learning more about the environment around us, we can begin to address the public health problems plaguing us.