Studentship: Quantitative dynamics of bluetongue virus within Culicoides biting midges

Lead Research Organisation: The Pirbright Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED

Abstract

Studentship
The rates of spread and replication of a virus within an arthropod vector determine when an infected vector becomes infectious. We hypothesise that virus migrates rapidly to a range of tissues within the body of the vector, rather than replicating to high levels within the lining of the midgut before spreading. In order to address our hypothesis experimentally, we will use modified fluorescent virus particles to track the spread and replication of a virus within an insect vector - specifically, of bluetongue virus (BTV) within Culicoides midges. The data generated will be used to develop the first ever quantitative model of within-insect viral dynamics.
Given the increasing BTV activity in Europe, it is important to unravel the interaction between BTV and Culicoides. The BTV-Culicoides system is also an ideal model for other virus-vector systems for at least two reasons. Firstly, only a midgut-associated barrier to viral dissemination occurs in Culicoides, compared with the multiple barriers present in other vector groups such as mosquitoes. Secondly, the University Supervisor’s group has recently developed a system for generating fluorescent BTV particles which will allow the quantity of virus in locations within the vector to be measured more accurately than using fluorescent antibody technology.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description During this studentship we have used a variety of techniques and approaches to generate quantitative data on the spatiotemporal development of arbovirus infections in insect vectors using the bluetongue virus-Culicoides interaction system as a model. The project has one year to run but so far the results have provided the first quantitative data on mean and variance in viral titre, RNA quantity and proportion of infected cells for a variety of tissues within orally infected Culicoides biting midges, as well as how this process is affected by infection and maintenance conditions. The work so far will be presented by the student at the 2016 SGM annual meeting this month and is expected to result in several publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, as well as providing pilot study data for future grant applications. Future planned work will broaden the alternative infection conditions investigated and develop a rigorous modelling and statistical framework for differentiating infection trajectories.
Exploitation Route The lessons learned and data generated during this project will form the basis of at least one grant application in the future. All data necessary to reproduce our published conclusions will be shared via publication in journals supporting open access or via open access data repositories such as FigShare
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Blogpost on Microbe Post, by the Microbiology Society (formerly the SGM) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blogpost developed around doctoral student's presentation at the SGM/MicroSoc annual meeting in 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://microbepost.org/2016/03/24/visualising-bluetongue-virus-in-midges/
 
Description Cafe Scientifique, Bradfield School, West Berkshire: "How insects spread viruses" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cafe Scientifique is a public forum for exploring the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context. I presented to an audience of the general public and answered questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cafe Scientifique, Reading: "How insects spread viruses" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cafe Scientifique is a public forum for exploring the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings take place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context. I presented to an audience of the general public and answered questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2017
 
Description Insect Festival 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Ran a stand on blood-sucking arthropods and their role in the transmission of disease at the Royal Entomological Society's Insect Festival. Talked to public, answered questions. Lots of enquiries about ticks, midges, mosquitoes and large biting flies (particularly horseflies).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.yorkmuseumstrust.org.uk/whats-on/events/insect-festival-2017/
 
Description Participant in IDEAS arboviruses workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participated in discussions and breakout groups, formed contacts. Planned future meetings on minimum reporting standards in insect infection studies (now funded and scheduled for 2018).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://ideas.princeton.edu/workshop-for-2017/