Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-2475
Microsporidia are a group of unicellular parasites that internally parasitize cells.
They can be found in various organisms including vertebrates such as fish and immunocompromised
humans. They are also commonly found in a variety of insects, including ants. Thelohania
solenopsae was discovered in the South American populations of fire ants over three decades
ago. Thelohania - like organisms was found only very recently in North America. Some
works have been done with regard to the basic biology and effects on fire ant nests and
populations. However, pathophysiological effects of this parasite on the host still remain to
be worked out. This is my research topic in this laboratory.
Specifically, I am interested at finding out what effects this parasite may or may not have on
the hemolymph physiology. Because numerous research have shown that, in the case of parasitoids,
the parasites do cause changes in the host's hemolymph, particularly the total hemolymph
proteins, it would not be surprising if microsporidia my cause the similar changes.
Secondly, I am also interested at the effects of fat body protein production as a result of
microsporidia infection because microsporidia primarily parasitize these tissues. Another
topic in my current research is a description of the infected tissues to further provide the
mechanisms and evidence to explain the lowered oviposition rates of infected queens. Finally,
I am interested at the manners of horizontal transmission of this pathogen. Currently, the only
means of horizontally transmitting this disease is by inoculating uninfected colonies with
infected larvae. However, the manners of how the pathogen is transmitted from the infected
larvae to the uninfected colony remains unknown. This is important because deciphering the
mechanism of horizontal transmission will help using this pathogen as a biological control
agent against the fire ants.
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