The Entomology group has worked for over forty years understanding the transmission of arboviruses (arthropod-borne viruses) by insects such as biting midges and mosquitoes. Arboviruses cause diseases of medical and veterinary importance worldwide and some, such as bluetongue virus, have already reached the UK. Our studies help reduce their impact in areas where they occur and also help to predict where they might appear next. We also receive funding as a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) National Capability for the rearing and production of arthropods in our dedicated insectary facility. As part of this role we supply biting midges and mosquitoes to partner organisations, academic users and industrial studies worldwide.
The aim of the Entomology group is to investigate the role of arthropod vectors in the emergence, spread and persistence of virus outbreaks and to devise ways of minimising their impact.
We are currently involved in a wide range of projects funded by BBSRC, Defra, the Horse Race Betting Levy Board, European Union and European Food Standards Authority. We are involved in major projects overseas (in India, Brazil, Trinidad and Europe) and also maintain the national Culicoides reference laboratory. Our speciality is in integrating field and laboratory studies of biting midges and mosquitoes within these regions and the UK. Key recent advances have been providing the first systematic investigation of Culicoides in India and assessments of techniques for their control worldwide.
The Entomology group influences government policy at a national and international level through membership of committees within the OIE (Culicoides expert group) and Defra (bluetongue and Schmallenberg expert groups). The critical analysis provided by the group has been integrated into documents produced by EFSA and the EU and ranges from quarantine procedures during bluetongue virus outbreaks to control measures for Culicoides biting midges. The group played a key role in policy advice during the 2007 incursion of BTV into the UK, correctly predicting where and when the virus would arrive, when it would re-emerge in 2008 and during which periods it was safe to transport animals which enabled over 70,000 movements to take place. The data produced by the group also enabled accurate dates to be set for vaccination for BTV in 2008 to be completed to prevent re-emergence of the virus which was successfully achieved. The entomology group is also among the most high profile of its type in the UK and Dr Carpenter and colleagues make frequent appearances on national television in addition to providing information for all audiences.