Almost every person in the world has been bitten by a blood feeding insect or arthropod, such as a mosquito or tick. Yet, most of us haven’t thought much about arthropod saliva. The molecules found in the saliva of blood feeders play a role in disease transmission and immune recognition. Therefore, it is important to better understand what makes up arthropod saliva. Dr. Mondragon-Shem begins her seminar by describing the phenomenon of red meat allergy, and how it was historically linked to tick bites. She then shares her research findings that confirm the presence of alpha-Gal sugar, the immunogenic molecule that leads to red meat allergy, in tick saliva. Her studies also identified protein candidates that are likely linked to alpha-Gal in tick saliva. Dr. Mondragon-Shem finishes her talk by describing how she has characterized the sugar molecules in the saliva of six species of blood feeding arthropods. This work has implications for better understanding disease transmission and immune recognition.
Karina Mondragon-Shem completed her Ph.D. at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, where she studied the saliva of different blood-feeding arthropods that transmit diseases. Continue Reading