Colorado State Hosts World’s Top Researchers for Course Examining Insects and Ticks Spreading West Nile and Other Infectious Diseases

Note to Editors: For a complete course schedule and a list of participants, or to attend conference sessions or arrange interviews, please contact Brad Bohlander at (970) 491-1545 or

Colorado State University’s Arthropod-Borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory, an internationally renowned facility known for advancing research in the prevention and control of mosquito-transmitted diseases, is hosting some of the world’s top researchers for the 15th annual Biology of Disease Vectors course June 13-26. The invitation-only program brings together leading experts and best students to address a variety of pressing issues related to vector-transmitted diseases including West Nile virus, yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria and others.

"This course is really an international who’s who list of the world’s top researchers in the field of disease vectors," said Barry Beaty, University Distinguished Professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences. "Over the past 15 years, a tremendous amount of progress has been made in the field. This year, we plan to highlight that progress as we address serious issues that impact human health on a worldwide basis."

Leading experts from areas of molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, physiology and related fields will present information on topics ranging from genetic engineering to vector control, insecticide resistance management and population genetics.

Topics of the talks include:

– the latest information on how viruses like West Nile and dengue fever are transmitted, by Barry Beaty, Colorado State University;

– how mosquitoes find their hosts, by Larry Zwiebel, Vanderbilt University;

– how the malaria mosquito genome project has transformed understanding of vectors, by Giorgos Christophides, European Molecular Biology Laboratory;

– how West Nile mosquitoes survive Midwestern winters, by David Denlinger, Ohio State University;

– how microorganisms in the insect gut can potentially block transmission of disease, by Ben Beard, Centers for Disease Control, and Serap Aksoy, Yale;

– progress in genetic engineering of mosquitoes, by Tony James, University of California-Irvine;

– using mosquito genomics for blocking malaria transmission, by Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, Johns Hopkins University; and

– using mosquito genomics for managing insecticide resistance, by Janet Hemingway, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Vectors, which are organisms such as mosquitoes and ticks that transmit pathogens, pass on diseases to hundreds of millions of humans throughout the world each year. The number of deaths associated with vector-transmitted infections exceeds one million people annually.

Some of these diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria, were previously thought to be controlled but now are reemerging and proving difficult to prevent and eliminate. According to the course organizers, the resurgence of these diseases, and the failure to control others, is attributed to several factors, including:

– the lack of trained vector-borne disease scientists;

– development of insecticide resistance in vectors;

– diversion of public health funds to diseases considered to be more important; and

– lack of adequate vaccines or chemotherapy.

The Biology of Disease Vectors course is addressing these and other issues by the collaboration and sharing of research results and information among vector-borne disease experts.

Beyond collaboration, another goal of the annual course is to develop a new generation of researchers worldwide who can apply modern molecular and quantitative approaches to the study and control of parasite vectors. Advanced graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and independent investigators are introduced to the biology of disease vectors, emphasizing current molecular biological, genetic, biochemical, physiological and genomic approaches.

As part of the course, the John Law Symposium on Molecular Physiology of Vectors: Advances in Tools and Insights will be held June 19 and 21 at Colorado State’s Pingree Park Mountain Campus in honor of John Law, a pioneer of vector research. The symposium will review the last 15 years of research and success in vector research.

About 35 students and 25 faculty will participate in the course. Faculty members are from universities, government institutions and biotechnology companies from throughout the world. Students come from many different nations as well. Small class size and the selection of world-renowned scientists for faculty provide an unparalleled learning experience.

The course is sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. The course is held in Fort Collins on even-numbered years. The course is held in a different country each odd-numbered year with the additional sponsorship of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The program was in Mexico in 2003 and will be held in Thailand in 2005.