The vector physiology group studies host parasite interactions.
Many invertebrates are important vectors for commercially important diseases that affect man directly, and indirectly via livestock.
By studying the relationships between parasites, vectors and their hosts we can gain insights into novel mechanisms for control.
Ticks and their salivary glands
Ticks are truly fascinating organisms worthy of study from an applied and an academic angle. The Bowman group covers tick research at many levels of scale. The molecular physiology of the tick salivary gland is studied to ascertain how saliva is produced and what bioactive components it contains. With industrial partners, they are identifying “genes & screens” of targets suitable for pesticide development. At the large scale, they study the epidemiological risk indices in Louping Ill virus and Lyme disease.
Work includes development of novel targets at the protein and gene level for the development of drugs that kill ticks, and the development of protocols for assessing their potential.
Other work concerns programmed Cell Death in Tick Salivary Glands. After adult ticks have fed on the host, the salivary glands are no longer needed and degenerate over the next few days. This work investigates the mechanisms of this deliberate and non-pathological process and studies the genes and proteins involved.
The immunology and epidemiology of African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)
Different areas in Africa have very different prevalence of sleeping sickness.
Research is focussing on immunogenetic differences in host-populations with different disease presentation, the interaction of trypanosomes with host natural-immune factors, to understand these differences.
The evolution of parasite resistance - understanding host-parasite interactions at the molecular level
The main model system being used is the freshwater snail intermediate host for the trematode Schistosoma sp. and the causative agent of human schistosomiasis.
Current work spans the fields of population genetics, phylogenetics, the identification, and evolution of snail intermediate hosts, through to developing molecular approaches for the isolation and characterization of genes involved in parasite resistance