Photo: Jeff Miller

Bruce Christensen
As public health officials on the East Coast keep an eye out for anything that hints of West Nile virus this year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are hoping their ongoing basic research will help put a monkey wrench into the genetic machinery that lets mosquitoes transmit deadly and debilitating illnesses. Bruce Christensen, professor of animal health and biomedical sciences, and his team of 15 researchers, technicians, and undergraduates have been working to unravel the genetics behind the insects' ability to carry parasites and transmit them to humans.

For instance, malaria, which is caused by such protozoan parasites as Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, kills nearly three million people annually, according to the United Nations. Elephantiasis, which is caused by nematodes injected into human hosts, currently infects more than 100 million people. Major drivers of this research are the environmental and health...

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