Infravec2 new insect vector research tools: no-cost resources for scientists
In 2017, the European Commission gave its go-ahead to Infravec2, the EU-funded global source for no-cost vector research products and services. In June, 2018, the Infravec2 team unveiled its updated online shop and website, with multiple new products and resources. The Infravec2 international consortium is composed of 24 partner institutions coordinated by the Institut Pasteur.
Infravec2 is a European Union funded network supporting research on diseases spread by mosquitoes, other insects and ticks by developing and sharing resources. EU funding allows Infravec2 to provide researchers worldwide with insect vector research products and services at no cost to the recipients. The Infravec2 team recently unveiled its updated online shop and website in June, 2018.
The overall objective of the Infravec2 project are to link key specialized research facilities essential to research excellence in insect vector biology; to open this infrastructure to researchers worldwide; and to develop new vector control measures targeting the greatest threats to human health and animal industries. Insect vectors transmit parasitic diseases such as malaria and leishmaniasis, and viral infections such as chikungunya, dengue, Zika, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.
The Infravec2 team is currently offering multiple new products via its upgraded online shopping site along with various new facility access options. These products include colonies of mosquitoes not previously available, new technologies to study malaria parasites in mosquitoes and new combinations of arbovirus-infected mosquitoes. New opportunities for researchers to work in top-level facilities on different disease vectors, including the sandfly (pictured) are also posted on the site.
One of the newly available mosquito colonies is Anopheles atroparvus, a widespread European species that was the major vector of human malaria until Europe was declared malaria-free in 1975. This mosquito is common in the region from Spain to Scandinavia. This species would be able to transmit malaria again if public health surveillance was relaxed and malaria re-entered Europe. It may also transmit human viruses such as West Nile virus. This Infravec2 colony was initiated from mosquitoes collected in the Ebre River delta of Spain in 2017. The Infravec2 colony replaces a decades-old colony and will allow more accurate research on the risks and control of this mosquito.
Another new offering is technology to study mosquito transmission of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for human malaria, a disease affecting over 200 million people each year. Researchers can test the effect of potential drugs and mosquito control compounds in a special membrane-feeding assay. The tool is commercialized by TropIQ Health Sciences, a partner in Infravec2, and is offered in a small-scale format to test up to 20 compounds, or a large-scale format to test up to 500 chemicals at a time. Access to these new research tools will help researchers identify useful drugs and insecticides for development more quickly.
New arbovirus-infected mosquito combinations are also available in the Infravec2 product catalog. One of these products is the common European backyard nuisance mosquito, Culex pipiens, infected with Usutu virus. Usutu virus was first described in Africa, but since about 2000 it has been increasingly observed in Europe infecting animals and causing mass bird deaths; a 2017 study found an unexpectedly high rate of people with antibodies indicating a past Usutu infection. Usutu virus is being watched closely by vector researchers in Europe, and the availability of this new research product will aid that work.
Finally, the project recently added new facility access options. Researchers can access rare and unique research facilities to carry out their own experiments on insecticides or vector infection. One new facility option is in the largest facility in the world maintaining living sandfly colonies. This will allow researchers to perform previously impossible experiments on basic sandfly biology and leishmaniasis, a potentially lethal disease affecting more than 10 million people each year. Sandflies also transmit human viruses, in Europe and elsewhere, which can be studied in this Infravec2 facility.