Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Tag: Dennis Kyle

The influence of oviposition status on measures of transmission potential in malaria-infected mosquitoes depends on sugar availability

graphical abstract

Background: Like other oviparous organisms, the gonotrophic cycle of mosquitoes is not complete until they have selected a suitable habitat to oviposit. In addition to the evolutionary constraints associated with selective oviposition behavior, the physiological demands relative to an organism’s oviposition status also influence their nutrient requirement from the environment. Yet, studies that measure transmission potential (vectorial capacity or competence) of mosquito-borne parasites rarely consider whether the rates of parasite replication and development could be influenced by these constraints resulting from whether mosquitoes have completed their gonotrophic cycle.

Methods: Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes were infected with Plasmodium berghei, the rodent analog of human malaria, and maintained on 1% or 10% dextrose and either provided oviposition sites (‘oviposited’ herein) to complete their gonotrophic cycle or forced to retain eggs (‘non-oviposited’). Transmission potential in the four groups was measured up to 27 days post-infection as the rates of (i) sporozoite appearance in the salivary glands (‘extrinsic incubation period’ or EIP), (ii) vector survival and (iii) sporozoite densities.

Results: In the two groups of oviposited mosquitoes, rates of sporozoite appearance and densities in the salivary glands were clearly dependent on sugar availability, with shorter EIP and higher sporozoite densities in mosquitoes fed 10% dextrose. In contrast, rates of appearance and densities in the salivary glands were independent of sugar concentrations in non-oviposited mosquitoes, although both measures were slightly lower than in oviposited mosquitoes fed 10% dextrose. Vector survival was higher in non-oviposited mosquitoes.

Conclusions: Costs to parasite fitness and vector survival were buffered against changes in nutritional availability from the environment in non-oviposited but not oviposited mosquitoes. Taken together, these results suggest vectorial capacity for malaria parasites may be dependent on nutrient availability and oviposition/gonotrophic status and, as such, argue for more careful consideration of this interaction when estimating transmission potential. More broadly, the complex patterns resulting from physiological (nutrition) and evolutionary (egg-retention) trade-offs described here, combined with the ubiquity of selective oviposition behavior, implies the fitness of vector-borne pathogens could be shaped by selection for these traits, with implications for disease transmission and management. For instance, while reducing availability of oviposition sites and environmental sources of nutrition are key components of integrated vector management strategies, their abundance and distribution are under strong selection pressure from the patterns associated with climate change.

Justine C Shiau, Nathan Garcia-Diaz, Dennis E Kyle, Ashutosh K Pathak. Parasit Vectors. 2024 May 23;17(1):236. doi: 10.1186/s13071-024-06317-2.

Two CTEGD faculty members receive Creative Research Awards

Jessica Kissinger and Dennis Kyle received the Lamar Dodd Creative Research Award during UGA’s Honors Week. The award recognizes established investigators whose overall scholarly body of work has had a major impact on the field of study and has established the investigator’s international reputation as a leader in the field.

Jessica Kissinger, Distinguished Research Professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ genetics department and former director of the UGA Institute of Bioinformatics, has focused her interdisciplinary career on the question of how parasites evolve. She has been a driving force behind the groundbreaking effort to create and maintain novel bioinformatics databases covering omics data for hundreds of dangerous pathogens. The Eukaryotic Pathogen, Vector, and Host Informatics Resources knowledgebase ( is an integrated, centralized resource for data mining on more than 500 organisms. Databases searches are free, permitting researchers to gain insights into and test hypotheses that may pave the way for new approaches to treating or preventing diseases such as malaria and Cryptosporidium (a waterborne parasite). Kissinger has used the databases and other bioinformatics tools to make remarkable discoveries.

Dennis E. Kyle, professor of cellular biology and infectious diseases in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine, is one of the top parasitologists in the world. Kyle serves as director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, and some of his most recent work focuses on discovery of new drugs that eliminate dormant vivax malaria that can linger in the liver. His group has discovered new drug series that target the dormant liver stages and is moving these novel therapeutics through preclinical studies. He also works on Naegleria fowleri, a rare but deadly parasite known as “brain-eating amoebae.” More than 97% of people infected with these amoebae die within two weeks. Kyle has conducted research into that pathogen, leading to effective repurposed drugs and the first rapid, sensitive diagnostic method.


First appeared in 2024 Research Awards

In Vitro Antimalarial Activity of Trichothecenes against Liver and Blood Stages of Plasmodium Species

graphical representation of abstract

Trichothecenes (TCNs) are a large group of tricyclic sesquiterpenoid mycotoxins that have intriguing structural features and remarkable biological activities. Herein, we focused on three TCNs (anguidine, verrucarin A, and verrucarol) and their ability to target both the blood and liver stages of Plasmodium species, the parasite responsible for malaria. Anguidine and verrucarin A were found to be highly effective against the blood and liver stages of malaria, while verrucarol had no effect at the highest concentration tested. However, these compounds were also found to be cytotoxic and, thus, not selective, making them unsuitable for drug development. Nonetheless, they could be useful as chemical probes for protein synthesis inhibitors due to their direct impact on parasite synthesis processes.

Prakash T Parvatkar, Steven P Maher, Yingzhao Zhao, Caitlin A Cooper, Sagan T de Castro, Julie Péneau, Amélie Vantaux, Benoît Witkowski, Dennis E Kyle, Roman Manetsch. J Nat Prod. 2024 Jan 23. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.3c01019.

Blood meals from ‘dead-end’ vertebrate hosts enhance transmission potential of malaria-infected mosquitoes

graphical abstract

Ingestion of an additional blood meal(s) by a hematophagic insect can accelerate development of several vector-borne parasites and pathogens. Most studies, however, offer blood from the same vertebrate host species as the original challenge (for e.g., human for primary and additional blood meals). Here, we show a second blood meal from bovine and canine hosts can also enhance sporozoite migration in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes infected with the human- and rodent-restricted Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei, respectively. The extrinsic incubation period (time to sporozoite appearance in salivary glands) showed more consistent reductions with blood from human and bovine donors than canine blood, although the latter’s effect may be confounded by the toxicity, albeit non-specific, associated with the anticoagulant used to collect whole blood from donors. The complex patterns of enhancement highlight the limitations of a laboratory system but are nonetheless reminiscent of parasite host-specificity and mosquito adaptations, and the genetic predisposition of An. stephensi for bovine blood. We suggest that in natural settings, a blood meal from any vertebrate host could accentuate the risk of human infections by P. falciparum: targeting vectors that also feed on animals, via endectocides for instance, may reduce the number of malaria-infected mosquitoes and thus directly lower residual transmission. Since endectocides also benefit animal health, our results underscore the utility of the One Health framework, which postulates that human health and well-being is interconnected with that of animals. We posit this framework will be further validated if our observations also apply to other vector-borne diseases which together are responsible for some of the highest rates of morbidity and mortality in socio-economically disadvantaged populations.

Ashutosh K Pathak, Justine C Shiau, Rafael C S Freitas, Dennis E Kyle. One Health. 2023 Jun 9:17:100582. doi: 10.1016/j.onehlt.2023.100582. eCollection 2023 Dec.

Undergraduate Research Experience Sparked Interest in Parasitology for Graduate Student

doctoral student Victoria Mendiola

My name is Victoria Mendiola and I am a PhD candidate in Dennis Kyle’s lab studying drug-induced dormancy in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for malaria. I have been at UGA for four years but originally received my BSc in Biology and MSc of Integrative Biology from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA.

My interest in infectious diseases stems from an NSF REU research internship where I was first introduced to the complexities of parasite-host interactions on an organismal level by studying hookworm infections in South American fur seals (SAFS) in the Gottdenker Lab at UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

During my REU, I fell in love with Athens and the scientific community in the area but the large number of tropical disease parasitologists solidified my reason for choosing UGA to continue my studies.

My doctoral research focuses on developing novel high-content imaging assays to incorporate Artemisinin-induced dormant Plasmodium falciparum recovery into the current understanding of drug treatment, therapeutics, and prevention. Of the species of Plasmodium that infect humans, P. falciparum is the deadliest and, unfortunately, is becoming resistant to current treatment options.

In August 2023, I received the CTEGD Training in Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases fellowship. In addition to providing up to two years of funding, there is also the opportunity for a capstone experience. I plan to use the capstone project opportunity to gain essential in-field, on-site training to complement my current wet lab skillset.

My long-term career goal is to utilize my diverse training in physiology, developmental biology, cellular biology, and infectious diseases to design, optimize, and implement phenotypic and behavioral assays in the context of drug discovery and parasite homeostasis.

For students who are interested in joining the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, I suggest they take every opportunity to talk to other researchers in and out of their field and organism of study. The sense of community within the CTEGD is unparalleled and should be utilized at every given opportunity. The friends I have made in and outside of the lab is one of my favorite things about being here at UGA (but the local festivals are really fun too).

Support trainees like Victoria by giving today to the Center for Tropical & Emerging Global Diseases.

UGA researchers received prestigious grant to develop malaria drug

by Amy Horton

Chet Joyner and Steven Maher
Principal Investigators Chet Joyner (left) and Steven Maher (right). Photo credit: Donna Huber


New compound targets P. vivax, source of recent U.S. infections

Two University of Georgia researchers have been awarded approximately $770,000 from the Global Health Initiative Technology (GHIT) Fund to develop a new drug to kill the dormant liver stages of Plasmodium vivax, the most widespread of the malaria parasites. This amount is part of a total of JPY 334,238,778 awarded by the GHIT Fund to a partnership consisting of UGA, Medicine for Malaria Venture and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation.

P. vivax often persists in the liver of patients, causing a relapse infection following treatment of the symptomatic blood infection,” said Steven Maher, associate research scientist in the Office of Research’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (CTEGD). “In many parts of the world, relapses account for the majority of total P. vivax cases.”

The announcement comes on the heels of reports of the first locally acquired cases of malaria in the United States in 20 years. In the summer of 2023, seven cases of locally acquired P. vivax malaria were reported in Sarasota, Fla., and one in Cameron County, Texas. These are in addition to a case of P. falciparum diagnosed in a Maryland resident living in the National Capital Region.

Most malaria cases diagnosed in the United States occur in people who have traveled to countries in South America, Africa, and southeast Asia where malaria is endemic. While locally acquired mosquito-transmitted malaria cases can occur, as Anopheles mosquito vectors exist throughout the United States, they are rare. The last reported outbreak was in 2003 when eight cases of locally acquired P. vivax malaria were identified in Palm Beach County, Fla.

The GHIT award will allow Maher and Chet Joyner to develop a compound series drug-screening program. Joyner is an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Center for Vaccines and Immunology and jointly appointed to CTEGD.

Microscopy image of Plasmodium vivax
Microscopy image of a P. vivax dormant (left, green) and growing (right, green) liver parasites inside of human liver cells (nuclei in purple). Image taken using 100x magnification. The dormant form survives most antimalarial treatments, but the new series of antimalarials kills both forms of the parasite. (Image credit: Wayne Cheng)

The compound series identified by Maher, the result of testing more than 100,000 samples using infected liver cells, is the first new chemical class discovered in more than 70 years with efficacy against the persisting liver stage. Over the next two years, Maher and Joyner will be collaborating with Medicine for Malaria Venture and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation to alter the chemistry of the compound to improve drug-like properties, including half-life and potency, necessary to achieve single dose criteria.

“Discovering a drug to kill dormant, non-proliferating cells is extremely difficult, yet with the novel assay the team developed we now have the first new target and drug class with potential to accelerate global malaria elimination efforts,” said Dennis Kyle, director of the CTEGD.

The current drug class used to treat P. vivax malaria, 8-aminoquinolines, often results in serious side effects and cannot be administered to pregnant women, who are one of the patient groups most in need of treatment.

“We have the first validated compound that kills vivax while it lies dormant in the liver,” Joyner said. “We hope in the next two years to help advance the new compounds to clinical testing.”

Lisa K. Nolan, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the work Maher and Joyner are doing could deliver a better quality of life to millions of people around the world.

“This great research is a shining example of our commitment to translational research, which will take this drug from the lab to preclinical testing to the patient rapidly,” Nolan said.

Shotgun Kinetic Target-Guided Synthesis Approach Enables the Discovery of Small-Molecule Inhibitors against Pathogenic Free-Living Amoeba Glucokinases

Pathogenic free-living amoebae (pFLA) can cause life-threatening central nervous system (CNS) infections and warrant the investigation of new chemical agents to combat the rise of infection from these pathogens. Naegleria fowleri glucokinase (NfGlck), a key metabolic enzyme involved in generating glucose-6-phosphate, was previously identified as a potential target due to its limited sequence similarity with human Glck (HsGlck). Herein, we used our previously demonstrated multifragment kinetic target-guided synthesis (KTGS) screening strategy to identify inhibitors against pFLA glucokinases. Unlike the majority of previous KTGS reports, our current study implements a “shotgun” approach, where fragments were not biased by predetermined binding potentials. The study resulted in the identification of 12 inhibitors against 3 pFLA glucokinase enzymes─NfGlck, Balamuthia mandrillaris Glck (BmGlck), and Acanthamoeba castellanii Glck (AcGlck). This work demonstrates the utility of KTGS to identify small-molecule binders for biological targets where resolved X-ray crystal structures are not readily accessible.

Mintesinot Kassu, Prakash T Parvatkar, Jillian Milanes, Neil P Monaghan, Chungsik Kim, Matthew Dowgiallo, Yingzhao Zhao, Ami H Asakawa, Lili Huang, Alicia Wagner, Brandon Miller, Karissa Carter, Kayleigh F Barrett, Logan M Tillery, Lynn K Barrett, Isabelle Q Phan, Sandhya Subramanian, Peter J Myler, Wesley C Van Voorhis, James W Leahy, Christopher A Rice, Dennis E Kyle, James Morris, Roman Manetsch. ACS Infect Dis. 2023 Oct 11. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.3c00284.

Characterization of the extracellular vesicles, ultrastructural morphology, and intercellular interactions of multiple clinical isolates of the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri

SEM micrographs of each clinical isolate in axenic culture.

Introduction: As global temperatures rise to unprecedented historic levels, so too do the latitudes of habitable niches for the pathogenic free-living amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. This opportunistic parasite causes a rare, but >97% fatal, neurological infection called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis. Despite its lethality, this parasite remains one of the most neglected and understudied parasitic protozoans.

Methods: To better understand amoeboid intercellular communication, we elucidate the structure, proteome, and potential secretion mechanisms of amoeba-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are membrane-bound communication apparatuses that relay messages and can be used as biomarkers for diagnostics in various diseases.

Results and discussion: Herein we propose that N. fowleri secretes EVs in clusters from the plasma membrane, from multivesicular bodies, and via beading of thin filaments extruding from the membrane. Uptake assays demonstrate that EVs are taken up by other amoebae and mammalian cells, and we observed a real-time increase in metabolic activity for mammalian cells exposed to EVs from amoebae. Proteomic analysis revealed >2,000 proteins within the N. fowleri-secreted EVs, providing targets for the development of diagnostics or therapeutics. Our work expands the knowledge of intercellular interactions among these amoebae and subsequently deepens the understanding of the mechanistic basis of PAM.

A Cassiopeia Russell, Peter Bush, Gabriela Grigorean, Dennis E Kyle. Front Microbiol. 2023 Sep 27:14:1264348. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1264348.

Sheptide A: an antimalarial cyclic pentapeptide from a fungal strain in the Herpotrichiellaceae

Structure and amino acid sequence of the cyclic pentapeptide, sheptide A (1)

As part of ongoing efforts to isolate biologically active fungal metabolites, a cyclic pentapeptide, sheptide A (1), was discovered from strain MSX53339 (Herpotrichiellaceae). The structure and sequence of 1 were determined primarily by analysis of 2D NMR and HRMS/MS data, while the absolute configuration was assigned using a modified version of Marfey’s method. In an in vitro assay for antimalarial potency, 1 displayed a pEC50 value of 5.75 ± 0.49 against malaria-causing Plasmodium falciparum. Compound 1 was also tested in a counter screen for general cytotoxicity against human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2), yielding a pCC50 value of 5.01 ± 0.45 and indicating a selectivity factor of ~6. This makes 1 the third known cyclic pentapeptide biosynthesized by fungi with antimalarial activity.

Robert A Shepherd, Cody E Earp, Kristof B Cank, Huzefa A Raja, Joanna Burdette, Steven P Maher, Adriana A Marin, Anthony A Ruberto, Sarah Lee Mai, Blaise A Darveaux, Dennis E Kyle, Cedric J Pearce, Nicholas H Oberlies. J Antibiot (Tokyo). 2023 Sep 20. doi: 10.1038/s41429-023-00655-6.