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Medical Entomology. Insects of Medical Importance. Directly cause damage to human tissue Act as Vectors for disease-causing organisms ------------------------------------------------------------ Provide useful medical services/drugs Are useful model systems in genetic studies.

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Medical Entomology

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insects of medical importance
Insects of Medical Importance
  • Directly cause damage to human tissue
  • Act as Vectors for disease-causing organisms


  • Provide useful medical services/drugs
  • Are useful model systems in genetic studies
stinging insects
Stinging Insects
  • Belong to the order Hymenoptera
    • Includes Paper wasps, Yellow Jackets, Honey bees and Fire Ants
  • Have specialized venom glands attached to “sting”
envenomation symptoms
Envenomation Symptoms
  • Insect venom causes local pain, redness, and swelling in people who are not allergic.
envenomation symptoms5
Envenomation Symptoms
  • Allergic reactions
    • Happen on the second (or later) sting
    • Antibodies to venom over-react and produce chemicals (like histamines) that can damage neighboring cells.
    • Severe allergies can lead to anaphylactic shock, a potentially deadly swelling of the airways and other tissues.
    • If you’ve been allergic once, you’ve got a 60% chance of being even more allergic next time. Carry an EpiPen!
biting insects
Biting Insects
  • Saliva from several biting insects acts as an allergen in many people
  • This can lead to intense itching when bites are numerous:
insects as vectors
Insects As Vectors
  • Several Biting Flies and Reduviid Bugs carry infective stages of disease causing pathogens. They are responsible for spreading diseases like:
    • Malaria (Mosquitoes in genus Anopholes)
    • Plague (Rodent Fleas)
    • West Nile Virus (Mosquitoes)
    • Typhoid/Cholera/Dysentary (Muscid Flies)
  • Caused by 4 species of protists in the genus Plasmodium
  • Anopholes sp. Mosquitoes transmit the infective stage of Plasmodium to people.
  • Active Plasmodium destroy large quantities of red blood cells
  • There are 300-500 million infections/yr world-wide, with 1 million deaths/yr.
  • Malaria has been virtually eradicated in the United States (US citizens with malaria have contracted it in other parts of the world)
trypanasomiasis sleeping sickness
Trypanasomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)
  • Caused by two subspecies of protists in the genus Trypanosoma
  • Carried from host to host blood-sucking tsetse flies
  • Trypanosome infection is characterized by a series of progressive symptoms:
    • Swelling at bite
    • Immune rxn (swelling of lymph nodes,etc)
    • Infection and swelling of CNS
    • Possible heart failure
  • These flies are found throughout middle Africa, where the disease affects 66 million people in 36 countries
chaga s disease
Chaga’s Disease
  • Caused by an American trypanosome, Trypansoma cruzi
  • Spread by blood feeding kissing bugs
  • Occurs throughout Central and South America, with some cases reported in the Southern US
  • Use “reservoir animals” like raccoons and armadillos to keep population present
  • Heart and blood vessel damage is a common symptom due to chemicals released by the parasites in the blood
pharmaceutically important insects
Pharmaceutically Important Insects

Venom is extracted from insects that sting in order to test people for allergies and to treat allergies in a series of small injections.

  • One of the major peptides in bee venom, called Melittin, is used to treat inflammation in sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.
    • Melittin blocks the expression of inflammatory genes, thus reducing swelling and pain.
    • It is administered by direct insect sting, or intramuscular injections.
maggot debridement therapy
Maggot Debridement Therapy
  • Recognized as useful by WWI surgeons
  • Used for
    • removing dead tissue from wound
    • Preventing infection
    • Speeding healing process
  • An extract, Allontoin, is used for treating the infectious bone disease, Osteomyelitis
beetle juice therapies
“Beetle Juice” Therapies
  • Cantharidin – the blister-causing oil found in several families of beetles (most notably, Meloidae)
    • Historical use by Greeks and Romans
    • Aphrodisiac????
    • Currently accepted by FDA in 2004 for treatment of warts and other skin problems
what can we learn from a fly
What Can We Learn From a Fly?
  • How genes work

By using mutation studies and gene mapping:

    • Organization/Location
    • What genes code for which proteins
  • Development
    • Which cells become what body part, when and HOW!
    • Proteins, enzymes, and neurotransmitters involved.
other insect models
Other Insect Models
  • Currently, We have sequenced the following genomes:
    • Several species of Drosophila
    • Several species of disease-carrying mosquito (Anopholes gambaei, Aedes, and Culex)
    • The Silkworm, Bombix mori
    • The Honey Bee, Apis mellifera
    • A Flour Beetle, Tribolium casteneus