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Wolbachia, Big Sur and African River-Blindness
Dr. Sullivan will discuss basic and applied research being
performed in his lab focused on Wolbachia, a
bacterial pathogen that infects most insect and many
worm species. Because Wolbachia rapidly spread
through insect populations and disrupts insect
development they are an excellent candidate as a
natural means of controlling insect pest populations
and combating mosquito born human diseases such
as Zika and Dengue fever. In addition, work in our lab
understanding the interactions between Wolbachia
and its worm host has proven essential in combating
the neglected diseases African Riverblindness and
Why is Wolbachia important: Wolbachia is a master Manipulator. Game of Thrones has nothing on this bacteria.It has been suggested as a solution for multiple human diseases, Zika, Dengue virus, Chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, African Riverblindness and Elephantiasis. Wolbachia is a intercellular pathogen of insects, that can manipulate its host in a multitude of ways. Including the reproduction of its host which includes: 1) Feminization of males (turning males into females yikes guys look out), 2) Induced parthenogenesis (reproduction with no male required) 3) Male death 4) Cytoplasmic Incompatibility (offspring not viable from infected sperm and non infected eggs).
Wolbachia also has another trick as well Lateral gene transfer. Huh? Ya this one is pretty crazy so Wolbachia has been documented in a few cases to transfer part of its genome to its host.
About our speaker: Dr. Bill Sullivan is a University of California Distinguished Professor, in MCD Biology at UCSC. Dr. Sullivan's lab is publishing powerhouse which has published over 100 journal articles. With titles such as "Wolbachia, waterbottles and the dark side of symbiosis" (Sullivan 2017 Mol Biol Cell In press). His lab has focused on the Cell Cycle, Cytoskeleton, and Pathogenesis
Wolbachia in the News:
In October 2016, it was announced that $18 million in funding was being allocated for the use of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to fight Zika and dengue viruses. Deployment is slated for early 2017 in Colombia and Brazil.
In July 2017, Verily, the life science’s arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, announced a plan to release about 20 million Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in Fresno, California, in an attempt to combat the Zika virus. (https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/14/googles-life-sciences-unit-is-releasing-20-million-bacteria-infected-mosquitoes-in-fresno/)