At the WCMP we use many different laboratory and imaging techniques to study parasites at the molecular level.
This series of short films aims to introduce you to some of these techniques and to provide a greater insight into the work we do here.
Please share any feedback or questions with the Centre's Public Engagement Manager Dr Vickie Curtis.
1. Dissection of a Sand Fly Gut : Exploring Leishmaniasis
Leishmaniasis is caused by the Leishmania parasite which is found in many parts of the world including southern Europe, the Middle East, India, North and South America, and Africa. Millions of people are currently at risk, and the distribution is altering as a result of global warming. The parasite is carried by a sand fly vector in a similar way that malaria is transmitted by an infected mosquito.
Some Leishmania species cause unsightly skin ulcers (cutaneous Leishmaniasis) at the site of the sandfly bite that eventually heal on their own, although drug treatment can speed up this process. However, with some cutaneous Leishmaniasis-causing species, there is a risk that several months or years following healing or treatment, the patient will develop an even more disfiguring form of the disease called mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis where the parasite destroys mucous membranes of the face. This involves the parasite travelling from the original site of infection (wherever the sandfly bite occurred) to the nose or mouth. Another form of disease caused by Leishmania parasites is visceral Leishmaniasis, which affects internal organs such as the liver and the spleen and is often fatal unless treated. Here, the Leishmania parasites must travel from the bite site to the internal organs to cause disease.
The parasite has a complex lifecycle. An important part of this lifecycle takes place in the gut of a sand fly. Therefore in order to study this stage in more detail, the parasites must be removed from an infected sand fly. In this short film, Dr Hector Diaz Albiter demonstrates how this procedure is carried out. It is very delicate and highly skilled work - the sand flies are only 2mm in length!