In this talk, Dr. Rebecca Christofferson provides an overview of arboviruses, arthropod-borne viruses, like dengue. Arthropods, such as mosquitoes, act as vectors to transmit diseases to vertebrates, including humans. Christofferson studies arthropod-virus-vertebrate interactions and how environmental factors affect disease transmission. For example, she explains how environmental factors, like changes in temperature and drought, affect the intrinsic ability of a vector to transmit a pathogen (vector competence).
In her second talk, Christofferson uses the Aedes aegypti-Zika system to explain how mosquito-life traits can be used to understand the process of vector competence. Zika is an arbovirus that is transmitted to humans via the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Christofferson measures how much time it takes for a mosquito to become infectious after its initial exposure (extrinsic incubation period) in order to understand how mosquito age interacts with the viral fitness measure of vector competence. This is done in the context of a commonly used mathematical framework, vectorial capacity.
Christofferson also works on characterizing understudied arboviruses like Bunyamwera, Batai, and Ngari, all of which are orthobunyaviruses. First, in the laboratory, her lab studied the growth of these Orthobunyaviruses in-vitro and investigated a mouse model to determine the cross-reactivity of these viruses. In addition, in collaboration with scientists in Rwanda, Christofferson investigated whether Bunyamwera, Batai and Ngari circulated in the country, and caused disease in cattle. As Christofferson explains, a better understanding of the prevalence of viruses that affects the cattle may alleviate misdiagnosis and allows us to follow the possible emergence of newly detected viruses.
Dr. Rebecca Christofferson is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in the School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed her bachelors in Zoology (2002), her Masters in Applied Statistics (2005), and her doctoral degree (2011) at Louisiana State University. In 2015, she joined the faculty at Louisiana State University, where her laboratory studies mosquito-borne arboviruses,… Continue Reading