Dr. Thomas Unnasch (GHIDR) the Department Chair and a Distinguished USF Health Professor in
the Department of Global
Health at the College of Public Health. His research has focused upon vector-borne diseases (see "Florida Trend" article) and the human filarial infections. The laboratory concentrates upon research areas that have a direct impact upon disease control and elimination programs targeting vector-borne pathogens worldwide. The laboratory is involved in developing new tools to enhance the efficiency of the surveillance activities carried out by onchocerciasis (river blindness) control and elimination programs in Africa and Latin America. The laboratory has been instrumental in the development of molecular based methods for the detection of the river blindness parasite Onchocerca volvulus both in humans and in its black fly vector. We continue to assist these programs, both in the development of diagnostic methods as well as in the development of mathematical algorithms to use data collected from screening pools of vectors to quantify the intensity of exposure in the affected human population. We are also working closely with collaborators in Africa and Latin America to develop spatial models to predict zones which are at risk for onchocerciasis using remote sensing data, and to develop more efficient methods for the collection of vector blackflies to monitor transmission of onchocerciasis. In the field of arboviral infections, our laboratory is studying the ecology of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) in the Southeastern USA, concentrating on elucidating the dynamic processes in the host-vector relationship that are drivers in the development of EEEV enzootics and epidemics. The ultimate goal of these studies is to develop a predictive model for habitats that are most likely to represent EEEV enzootic foci. Such a model could be used to most efficiently target the surveillance and vector control efforts of the mosquito control programs throughout Florida and the Southeastern USA.