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Research at the Prokopec Lab falls into four areas:
Over a decade of research on the role of heterogeneity (individual, spatial, temporal) on arbovirus transmission dynamics has unveiled the critical role of specific traits on pathogen transmission. We have developed a novel framework to study the overlapping nature of couplings between functional heterogeneities relevant for vector-borne disease transmission. We argue that research efforts should move beyond considering the impact of single sources of heterogeneity and account for complex couplings between conditions with potential synergistic impacts on parasite transmission. Using theoretical approaches and empirical evidence from various host–parasite systems, we investigate the ecological and epidemiological significance of couplings between heterogeneities and discuss their potential role in transmission dynamics and the impact of control.
As insecticide-based interventions are deployed, there is a need to understand how evolutionary processes impact the success of such efforts. Insecticide resistance has emerged as a major problem to public health, and there is a need to understand the ecological determinants of the emergence and propagation of genes that confer resistance to a myriad of insecticide classes. We aim to understand the spatial and temporal dynamics of insecticide resistance as they relate to vector management
Using an evidence-based approach, we conduct experimental and randomized field trials to evaluate the impact of existing and novel interventions on vector behavior and abundance or pathogen transmission. Such analyses depend on adequate surveillance platforms, and we are involved in the development of better sampling methodologies, the incorporation of spatial analysis and mapping, and the evaluation of this enhanced surveillance in the context of urban mosquito control programs.
EMERGING TICK-BORNE DISEASES
Ticks are the most notorious vectors of human and animal diseases in the United States. In recent years, a new arbovirus, Heartland virus (HRTV), has been reported in the Midwestern and Southern US states, causing severe human disease and fatal cases. Knowledge about the viral enzootic cycle is very limited. The Prokopec Lab is currently studying the ecology of HRTV transmission in Georgia via field surveys of ticks and small mammals.