Three DO students presented their research at the BBRC Health and Disparities Symposium: From Molecules to Disease held in El Paso at the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) last month. “These students are developing a point-of-care assay to detect mosquito-borne viruses,” explained Dr. Debra E. Bramblett, Ph.D., an associate professor at BCOM and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Bramblett has been working with the students, along with Dr. Michael Woods, Ph.D, an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology & Pathology.

Medical student Luis Reyes was the first author and presenter of the poster entitled “Culex Mosquito Surveillance in Southern New Mexico and West Nile Virus Virtual Detection Using Reverse Transcription Loop Mediate Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP).” Reyes said, “I was interested in this project because of its mixture of laboratory work in a microbiology setting, fieldwork, and the relevance it has towards the New Mexico community’s public health. If we are successful, at the end of this project we should be able to identify the areas of Southern New Mexico with the highest risk of West Nile Virus infected Culex mosquitoes. We hope that sharing this information will increase awareness amongst people in the region on protecting themselves from mosquito-borne viruses.”

Fellow BCOM student Mikhail De Jesus was the first author and presenter of the poster entitled “Development of Reverse Transcription Loop-Mediate Isothermal Amplification Assay for Zika and Chikungunya Virus.” DO student Carlos Yeelot was a co-author on both posters and assisted with the presentations of these posters.

 

The symposium was sponsored by UTEP’s Department of Biological Sciences and the Border Biomedical Research Center. Presentations at the event covered topics of high importance in the public health field including diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases, and environmental toxicology, amongst others. There were also opportunities for researchers and health professionals to exchange ideas and research strategies. According to the UTEP website, “The primary goal of this symposium is to communicate to the research community state-of-the-art basic and applied research focused on health disparities.”

Reyes said of the experience, “It was important to showcase the progress of our research to the regional scientific community in order to receive constructive feedback. It was also an opportunity to serve as a representative of BCOM, with the intent to expand the school’s notoriety in the border region.”