SFU biological sciences professor Carl Lowenberger (l) and Brazilian visiting professor Pedro Oliveira are collaborating on studies of disease transmitting insects.


SFU-Brazilian researchers connect to tackle insect transmitted diseases

October 26, 2017

Researchers at SFU and at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) are collaborating to determine why certain insects transmit diseases. The work has brought Brazilian scientist Pedro Oliveira to SFU for a two-week stint to work with his collaborator, biological sciences professor Carl Lowenberger.

The two researchers began their collaboration nearly a decade ago after discovering they were both involved in similar research on insects that transmit harmful and deadly diseases, including Dengue virus, Zika virus, and Chagas disease.

Lowenberger says the two are among a rare few research scientists who study both Aedes aegypti, the insect that transmits Dengue and Zika, and Rhodnius prolixus, the kissing bug that transmits Chagas disease.

“Much of our research looks at how these insect vectors recognize and eliminate parasites, and how the parasites inactivate or modulate the immune systems of the insect vectors for their own benefit,” says Lowenberger.

“The hope is that by understanding the molecular interactions between insect and parasites or pathogens, we might identify targets to reduce transmission to humans.”

Since beginning their research collaboration, Lowenberger has visited his Brazilian counterpart three times. The visit to SFU is a first for Oliveira, who has also worked with some of Lowenberger’s students who travelled to Brazil for four-month visits. Further student exchanges between both countries are also being planned.