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Tsetse Population Genetics

In the absence of effective and affordable control strategies to block disease in the mammalian host, most control efforts utilize tsetse reduction methods. In collaboration with Dr. Gisella Caccone’s team at Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, we are using population genetics and genomics methods to identify the historical and modern processes that account for the current level and distribution of genetic variation in tsetse populations. We are working with Dr. Alison Galvani at YSPH to evaluate the effectiveness of our findings through mathematical modeling studies. In Kenya our work focuses on Glossina pallidipes in collaboration with researchers at Biotechnology Resources Institute of Kenya Agricultural Research Organization (BRI-KALRO) and is supported through an NIH ICIDR award (UO1AIU115648). The information we obtain can help us identify isolated populations that may be appropriate units for control. Before undertaking vector control methods that involve either classical traps and targets or para-transgenically modified insects or sterile males, it is important to predict the extent to which they are likely to interact with wild populations. This can help characterize the geographic scale on which local interactions between tsetse and trypanosomes may be influencing disease epidemiology.

Our work in Uganda is in collaboration with researchers at Gulu University in Gulu Uganda and is supported by NIAID (RO1AI068932). These studies have yielded insight into linkages among populations of G. fuscipes fuscipes, an important vector of human trypanosomiasis in Uganda and the endosymbiotic microbes associated with different tsetse populations. These data have the potential to help Ugandan control programs as they undertake fly eradication efforts. Our genomics based investigations have identified putative genes relevant for parasite transmission, which we are further investigating through functional studies in the laboratory.