Mr Tim Möhlmann
Tim Möhlmann is a PhD candidate at Wageningen University and Research (Wageningen, The Netherlands). He studies European Culicoides biting midges and their associated microbiota.
"Biting midges are important vectors of viruses that cause animal diseases. In Europe for example, we have endured disease outbreaks of bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus. Biting midges are often found with many individuals around livestock farms. It is hard to control them, so we are looking for alternatives to reduce virus transmission by these tiny insects. Like in other animals, the gut of biting midges is full of bacteria. We expect that these bacteria interact with their biting midge host, as well as with virus particles that enter the gut system of a female biting midge after she takes a blood meal.
My current work focuses on the question if bacteria in the gut system of biting midges can influence virus infection and transmission. I use laboratory-reared biting midges and modify their gut bacterial community with antibiotics. After providing the biting midges with a virus spiked blood meal, they are incubated for several days, and thereafter tested for infection with the virus. In addition, I try to understand how the gut bacterial community of female biting midges arises. This will give insight into how much variation there is among biting midges species, and at which stage the bacterial communities can be influenced. Therefore, I look at the bacterial community in different life stages and multiple field-collected species of biting midges. Finally, I tested the potential of biting midges and mosquitoes to transmit the relatively unknown Shuni virus. You can read all about this in our paper, that was recently published in PLoS Neglected and Tropical Diseases".