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Lanzaro Receives Research Award

May 7, 2007

May 4, 2007

Gregg LanzaroDAVIS--Medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro is the recipient of the 2007 Academic Federation Award for Excellence in Research at the University of California, Davis, for his work on both the mosquito that transmits malaria and the blood-sucking sand fly that transmits visceral leishmaniasis.

Both are life-threatening parasitic diseases.

The annual award recognizes the outstanding research efforts of an Academic Federation member, said Alfonso Tramontano, chair of the Academic Federation Committee on Research.

Lanzaro will receive the award at a reception from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, May 17 in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors’ Center.

Lanzaro serves as director of the statewide UC Mosquito Research Program, part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources; director of the UC Davis Center for Vectorborne Diseases; and director of the statewide UC Malaria Research and Control Group. A member of the faculty of the Department of Entomology since 2002, he was appointed to the faculty of the Comparative Pathology Graduate Group, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, in May.

Lanzaro researches the population genetics of the African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, and the molecular and immunological interactions involved between the sand fly and its human hosts. Multimillion dollar federal grants support his work.

Malaria causes some 300 to 500 million infections a year, and kills more than a million people a year. Ninety-percent of the cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Leishmaniasis, ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the 10 most important infectious diseases of the developing world, infects 12 million people in 88 countries. More than 90 percent of the world's cases of visceral leishmaniasis are in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan, and Brazil.

Lanzaro said his malaria research focuses on "combining field-based research with modern molecular biology to answer fundamental questions about the population biology of this mosquito vector."

His lab was the first to employ microsatellite DNA markers to study patterns of gene flow among A. gambiae populations in Africa. "Using both genetic (indirect) and ecological (direct) methods to estimate gene flow, we showed that sub-populations in west Africa do indeed exchange genes, although at a very low level," he said.

"We have recently turned to studying the distribution of insecticide resistance genes among populations of A. gambiae in Africa. Our work focuses on resistance to pyrethroid insecticides and to DDT. These two insecticides are currently the mainstay of malaria control campaigns in Africa."

Since 1995, his work on malaria has been continuously supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Swiss National Science Foundation. In addition, in 2005, he received a five-year Fogarty International Global Infectious Disease Research Training Program Grant, enabling three young scientists from the west African nation of Mali to conduct research at UC Davis.

The Lanzaro team is currently working on the application of microarray technology to conduct research on the population genomics of A. gambiae. As director of the Mosquito Research Program, he recently formed a five-UC campus consortium (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles and Riverside) which raised more than $200,000 to have the whole genome tiling array designed and produced for A. gambiae. The consortium met April 17 on the UC Davis campus with the Affymetrix design team. The microarray is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Lanzaro’s leishmaniasis research involves studying substances in sand fly saliva, and detecting genetic differences among populations of sand fly vectors that may influence "the pathology of the pathogens they transmit."

"This notion is new to science," he said.

In Brazil, Leishmania chagasi causes life-threatening visceral leishmaniasis, whereas in Costa Rica it causes a relatively benign skin disease.

"Over the past several years leishmaniasis has been a concern in the U.S.," Lanzaro said, "because of infections in military personnel deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Lanzaro authored or co-authored 31 publications over the last five years. He joined UC Davis in 2002 after serving as a professor in the Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

Lanzaro received his master’s degree in entomology in 1978 from the University of Arizona, Tucson and his doctorate in entomology in 1986 from the University of Florida, Gainesville. He was a post-doctoral fellow in the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1988-1991 and a MacArthur Fellow at the National Institutes of Health from 1991-1995.

*This news release was originally distributed May 4, 2007 by Kathy Keatley Garvey, University of California Statewide Mosquito Research Program/Department of Entomology

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