Keynote and plenary speakers

Prominent scientists worldwide have already accepted to act as keynote speakers or plenary speakers. Plenary speakers are those who provide a plenary talk during the plenary sessions at TTP10. Keynote speakers are those who provide a keynote lecture during the parallel sessions (including those sections organized as “Symposia”) at TTP10.

 

PLENARY SPEAKERS

 

Agustín Estrada-Peña

University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

Agustín Estrada-Peña (born 1959) is Professor of Zoonoses in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Zaragoza (Spain). His work is devoted to capture the finely tuned ecological relationships between ticks, environment, hosts and pathogens, using diverse methods: from satellite images recording environmental conditions, to the study of the rewiring of the molecular machinery of ticks shaped by pathogens. His goals are the incorporation of mathematical tools commonly used in other fields into the description of the ecology and epidemiology of ticks. He is deeply concerned with the climate trends and the human modifications of the habitat, impacting the circulation of tick-transmitted pathogens. He is currently serving as Subject Editor in two journals and is co-author or co-editor of scientific papers and books, with an h-index of about 60.

The many scales of the tick-borne pathogens relationships: an epidemiological tale

The topic of the presentation is devoted to describing the intricated ways in which vertebrates, ticks and pathogens circulate in the field. The presentation aims to pinpoint some gaps and caveats of the current research in the field. A secondary goal is to demonstrate new ways of describing these intimate relationships, from the field to the molecular level.

 
 

Kelly A. Brayton

Washington State University, USA

Dr. Kelly Brayton holds a PhD from Purdue University and did post-doctoral work at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa.  After moving to Washington State University Dr. Kelly Brayton provided the first genome sequence for several pathogens of veterinary importance, with a primary focus on Anaplasma species.  Her interest is in elucidating the pathogen-vector interface and she has taken several approaches to study this relationship including comparative genomics, examining interactions of the tick microbiome on pathogen acquisition, and the role of type 4 secretion system effectors at the tick interface.  Professor Kelly Brayton is the Treasurer for the Society for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, Past-President of the American Society for Rickettsiology, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The genus Anaplasma: comparative to functional  genomics

Undoubtedly a genome sequence is necessary to begin to understand the biology of a pathogen.  While rickettsial pathogens have reduced genomes, these streamlined genomes have remained a challenge - with many coding sequences yet to be defined functionally.  Comparative analyses of Anaplasma marginaleA. centraleA. ovis and A. phagocytophilum will be presented addressing questions such as how to define the species, how do the organisms persist in the host, what defines host range.  Challenges in functional genomics for these organisms will be described, and a breakthrough transposon mutant library strategy will be presented with recent progress in characterizing genes of interest.

 
 

Hein Sprong

Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, the Netherlands

Dr. Hein Sprong obtained his PhD-degree in Medicine from the University of Amsterdam in 2001. He worked as a postdoc at the Max-Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden and became assistant professor at the Faculty of Chemistry of the Utrecht University. Since 2007, he works at the Dutch Centre for Infectious disease Control of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. Currently, he heads a multidisciplinary team of researchers that bridges the ecology and epidemiology of wildlife and vector-borne zoonoses. He has been involved the FP7 ANTIDotE project, which aimed to develop an anti-tick vaccine that protects against multiple tick-borne diseases. Since 2019, he is the consortium leader of VectorNet, a joint initiative of EFSA and ECDC, which supports all aspects of the European collection of data on vectors and their pathogens, related to both animal and human health.

Eco-epidemiology of Lyme borreliosis

How can nature be protected and biodiversity be preserved while the threats of zoonotic diseases are minimised? Expanding nature areas and creating ecological networks across Europe is not only beneficial for wildlife, but also for the pathogens they carry. A prominent case is Lyme borreliosis, which has risen from relative obscurity to become a major public health problem in Europe. An interdisciplinary network of researchers, public health experts, and nature managers gained and shared knowledge in the ecological processes of Ixodes ricinus, their pathogens and vertebrate hosts as well as in the human epidemiology of tick bites and tick-borne diseases, aiming at the development of sustainable measures for the prevention of Lyme borreliosis.

 
 

Ben Mans

Agricultural Research Council - Onderstepoort Veterinary Research, South Africa

Ben Mans has worked in the field of tick-host interaction for the last 26 years focusing on the evolution of blood-feeding behavior. His interests range from protein functional evolution, tick genomics, physiology, proteomics, transcriptomics, tick systematics and how these integrate to allow a reconstruction of the events that led to blood-feeding behavior in ticks. Other focus areas include diagnostics, epidemiology, genetic diversity and genomics of tick-borne parasites and development of anti-tick and parasite vaccines. He is a Principal Researcher at the Agricultural Research Council - Onderstepoort Veterinary Research (South Africa) in the Epidemiology, Parasites and Vectors division.

Paradigms in tick evolution

Ticks adapted to a blood-feeding lifestyle by evolving various mechanisms unique to tick biology. This include mechanisms to detect the host, modulate the host immune and hemostatic systems, and process the blood meal and excess water derived from the blood meal. Evolution of these mechanisms entailed novel structural and morphological innovations and/or exaptation of existing structures for blood feeding. This includes genetic innovations that allowed evolution of new functions involved at the feeding interface. Not only does these innovations need to be efficient and specifically suited to its functional purpose to allow effective feeding, but had to evolve within existing biological frameworks that shaped and influenced the evolutionary trajectories followed by different tick lineages. The unique biology of different tick lineages may be explored and interpreted from this perspective to allow a synthesis of shared and novel characters that define ticks as monophyletic, obligate blood-feeding arachnids, that nonetheless display remarkable lineage specific diversity. The reconstruction of ancestral characters enables contextualization of these paradigms, while technological advances illuminate the complexities involved in the mechanisms behind blood-feeding. A robust understanding of tick biology requires integration of knowledge from different disciplines that will allow definition of a fundamental and holistic model of tick evolution.

 
 

Jeremy Gray

Jeremy Gray obtained his PhD in Animal Parasitology from the University of London in 1972 and shortly afterwards took up a lecturing post in University College Dublin, remaining there to teach animal parasitology for more than 30 years, focusing initially on infections of farm animals, and latterly on zoonoses. His research on the tick Ixodes ricinus and the pathogens that it transmits (especially Babesia divergens and Borrelia burgdorferi) commenced soon after his arrival in Ireland. Related activities over the years included leadership of the EU programme on Lyme borreliosis, EUCALB, which eventually gave rise to ESGBOR, a study group of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease. He left the university in 2008, but as an Emeritus Professor has been able to maintain fruitful working relationships with colleagues at UCD and in many other parts of the world, greatly facilitated by his association since its inception with the journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.

Ixodes ricinus – a personal perspective

Ixodes ricinus, the most abundant tick in northern and eastern Europe, has been the subject of scientific research for approximately 90 years, and more papers have been published on this species than on any other tick. This presentation will consider past, present and possible future studies. It will include consideration of the early intensive work on the tick’s role as a parasite of farm animals, subsequent research on its transmission of the zoonotic tick-borne encephalitis, the early 1980s interest in it as a vector Lyme borreliosis, and the increase in emphasis on the detection of pathogens resulting from the advent of molecular methods. Ongoing and developing studies to be considered will include the importance of seasonal activity patterns in determining aspects of tick-borne disease epidemiology, the role of birds in establishing new foci of tick-borne infections, the identification of genetically determined and ecologically significant differences between tick populations, and the impact of climate change on the distribution of this tick species.

 
 
 

 

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

 

 
 

Gad Baneth

School of Veterinary Medicine, Hebrew University, Israel

Dr. Baneth is a full professor of Veterinary Parasitology and Infectious Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Dr. Baneth graduated from the Hebrew University Koret School of Veterinary Medicine in Israel in 1990. He did a Small Animal internship and residency at the Hebrew University until 1994 followed by a fellowship in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases Research at the College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University during 1994 and 1995. He received a PhD in veterinary parasitology from the Hebrew University in 2000. Prof. Baneth served as the head of the Small Animal Internal Medicine Department at the Hebrew University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He is a diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Clinical Pathology (ECVCP), an associate member of the European Veterinary Parasitology College (EVPC) and an editorial advisory board member for the Journal Veterinary Parasitology since 2006. He is the vice president of the LeishVet group for standardization of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of canine leishmanioasis, a member of Board of Directors, Israel Society for Parasitology, Protozoology and Tropical Diseases, and a founding member of the Tropical Council for Companion Animal Parasites (TroCCAP). Dr. Baneth was the chairman of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) during 2014-2015 and was an advisor to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on leishmaniosis. Dr. Baneth heads a laboratory on infectious diseases. His research interests focus on the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of veterinary and zoonotic vector-borne infectious diseases including leishmaniosis, relapsing fever borreliosis, canine ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, hepatozoonosis, trypanosomiasis and dirofilariasis.  Dr. Baneth is involved in the study of zoonotic and veterinary diseases in the Mediterranean Basin, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Southern Europe and South. He is the author of more than 270 scientific publications and book chapters. He is currently the director of the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at the Hebrew University in Israel.

Tick-borne relapsing fever caused by Borrelia persica, epidemiology, transmission pathways and animal reservoirs

Relapsing fever is an acute infectious disease caused by spirochetes of the genus Borrelia in the family of Borreliaceae. The disease in humans is characterized by spirochetemia with episodes of fever, separated by afebrile intervals. Tick-brone relapsing fever caused by Borrelia  persica and transmitted by the tick Ornithodoros tholozani is common in Israel and other countries in the Near East extending from India and Central Asia to Egypt. We studied the life cycle and transmission of B. persica under natural conditions and in an experimental model using membrane feeding and maintaining the life cycle of the tick in all stages by artificial feeding. We also determined tick blood meal origins and detected B. persica infection in wildlife animals for the characterization of transovarial and transstadial transmission patters.

 
 

Jose De la Fuente

Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC, Ciudad Real, Spain

Graduated in Physics at Moscow State University and University of Havana. Ph.D. in Biology at University of Havana. Research career: Switzerland (Institute for Molecular Biology I, ETH, University of Zurich), Cuba (Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana), United States (Oklahoma State University, Stillwater) and Spain (Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, Ciudad Real). Current position: Professor, SaBio, IREC (CSIC-UCLM), Spain, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, CVHS, OSU, U.S.A. Thirty-five years experience in research, education and as Principal Investigator in research projects. Over 600 published papers and 5 books edited. Patents: 31. PhD thesis supervised: 32. Current Research Interests: host-vector-pathogen molecular interactions, and translation of this basic information into development of effective vaccines and other interventions for the control of infectious diseases affecting human and animal health worldwide.

Tick-host-pathogen interactions: a vaccinomics approach to control tick-borne diseases

Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) represent a growing burden for human and animal health worldwide. Several approaches including the use of chemicals with repellency and parasiticidal activity, habitat management, genetic selection of hosts with higher resistance to ticks, and vaccines have been implemented for reducing the risk of TBDs. However, the application of latest gene editing technologies in combination with vaccines likely combining tick and pathogen derived antigens and other control measures would result in the development of effective, safe, and environmentally sound integrated control programs for the prevention and control of TBDs. This approach in combination with latest omics technologies and focusing on biological processes involved in tick-host, tick-pathogen and host-pathogen interactions would allow the identification and combination of tick-derived and pathogen-derived protective antigens affecting tick infestations, tick pathogen infection and transmission, tick attachment and feeding, and/or host pathogen infection.

 
 

Marcelo B. Labruna

Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

Currently, Full Professor of Animal Parasitic Diseases at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of São Paulo, São Paulo City, Brazil, where he initiated his work as an Assistant Professor in 1997.  Graduate in Veterinary Medicine in 1993, and Master Sc. Degree in Epidemiology in 1996 at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. PhD in Epidemiology in 2000 at the University of São Paulo. PosDoc in Rickettsiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch during 2002-2003. He has advised 13 Master Sc. and 17 PhD students, and 14 PosDocs at the University of São Paulo. He has published 525 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and he is the curator of the tick collection “Coleção Nacional de Carrapatos Danilo Gonçalves Saraiva” (CNC), which is probably the largest tick collection of Latin America. His main research interests have focused on systematics and ecology of ticks and tick-borne diseases.

The role of human-modified landscapes in the reemergence of tick-borne spotted fever in Brazil

The most important and prevalent tick-borne disease in Brazil is Brazilian spotted fever (BSF), caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, which is transmitted to humans mainly by the tick Amblyomma sculptum.  BSF is the most lethal tick-borne bacterial disease, with 30-60% fatality rates reported every year in the country. While BSF is known to occur in Brazil since the 1920s, there has been a great reemergence of the disease during the last 30 years, characterized by both horizontal and vertical expansions in southeastern region of the country. Such expansion has been linked to the expansion of populations of capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), the largest living rodent of the world, and one of the main hosts for A. sculptum. The factors contributing to the expansion of capybaras, their ticks, and the infection of these ticks with R. rickettsii, have been investigated in several recent studies, which will be the focus of the presentation.

 
 

Janet Foley

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, USA

Janet Foley is a veterinarian and disease ecologist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Growing up in New England, early influences included her father who was an avid outdoorsman and hunter. After living briefly in northern Germany, she obtained her BA in religion and BS in evolution before settling in Davis, California to study for the DVM and a PhD in ecology. She is now a professor in vector-borne disease epidemiology and director of the Masters in Preventive Veterinary Medicine program. Her research expertise is in disease in populations, wildlife-human interactions, disease persistence theory, and tick-transmitted disease. She is the PI for the tick research focus in the PacVec CDC-funded Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease.

Theory and case studies for invasiveness of ticks and tick-borne disease

This talk briefly overviews invasion biology, which is the study of how organisms come to be introduced into a new area and establish themselves with some probability of local persistence. We then address key features of ticks and tick-borne disease that lend themselves to being invasive, such as high reproductive rates and for some ticks, catholic or indiscriminate feeding preferences. We also assess environmental factors that underlie invasion such as climate, habitat, and societal changes. Finally we evaluate several case studies of tick-borne disease invasion with the goal of identifying patterns and key components of the process that would lend themselves to future prevention or intervention to lessen the consequences associated with invasive tick-borne disease.

 
 

Stephen C. Barker

University of Queensland, Australia

Stephen Barker is a Professor of Parasitology. Barker has been studying ticks and other ectoparasites at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, for over 25 years. Recent activities include: (i) a monograph, with Dr Alan Walker (University of Edinburgh), on the “Ticks of Australia. The species that infest domestic animals and humans”; (ii) resolution of some old chestnuts in the systematics of the ticks (from entire mitochondrial genome sequences) which led to the description of two new genera of ticks, Robertsicus and Archaeocroton, and a proposal of another new genus; and (iii) development of the Tick Mitochondrial Genome Network.

Might mitochondrial genomes reveal the identity of the first host of ticks: an amphibian, reptile or a bird? Did this host live in South Africa, Australis, the Caribbean or somewhere else? Might the Tick Mitochondrial Genome Network help?

Mitochondrial genomes have been remarkably instructive about the evolutionary-history (phylogeny), population-genetics and phylogeography of ticks. At present the tick-community has entire mt genomes for 125 of the 896+ species of ticks (160 mt genomes in total). One day soon we may have a mt genome for most species of ticks, or at least for one or two species from each subgenus of the type species of each subgenus being particularly important). I will review where we have been, were we are, and where we might be in the world of tick systematics and mt genomes and mt gene sequences. And ponder the question “What would Harry say about our endeavours so far?

 
 

Richard Wall

University of Bristol, UK

Richard Wall is professor of Zoology at the University of Bristol.  He has over 30 years of research experience in studies of the ecology, behaviour and epidemiology of parasitic arthropods and arthropod-mediated disease in animals.  Recent workhas included large-scale surveillance programmes for assessing tick and flea prevalence on companion animals and livestock and the development of novel biological tools for louse, mite and tick control.  Professor Wall has written or co-authored over 200 research publications plus three textbooks.  He was veterinary editor of the journal “Medical & Veterinary Entomology” for eight years and in 2013 he was awarded the WAAVP/Bayer Prize for research excellence in veterinary parasitology.  Professor Wall has been involved in numerous international collaborative projects in Africa, India and South east Asia.

Essential oils for the prevention of tick attachment to humans and companion animals

Plant essential oils show promise as natural alternatives to synthetic tick repellents and could make a valuable contribution to integrated tick management programmes for both humans and their companion animals. However, while many studies report their efficacy in the laboratory, few extend these investigations to in vivo or field trials.  Here we present the results of studies which examined the use of essential oils to prevent tick bites on both humans and dogs. The results show that some essential oils, particularly thyme and spearmint, exhibit considerable potential as effective natural tick repellents for application to clothing or animals, with effective equivalence to 20% DEET.

 
 

Monica Florin Christensen

Institute of Veterinary Pathobiology, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monica Florin-Christensen has worked in scientific research for over 35 years, mostly in physiological and molecular biological aspects of several lower eukaryotes, including the free-living ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila and the parasites Babesia bovis, Trypanosoma cruzi and Pneumocystis carinii, among others. She got her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has worked in different laboratories in her home country as well as in USA, Denmark and Germany. For the last 18 years, she has been a Senior Researcher of the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) at the Institute of Veterinary Pathobiology, Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), Argentina. Her main current focus is the identification and characterization of molecules of parasitic protozoans that act at the host-pathogen interplay and that can be targets for the development of therapeutic interventions. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate university courses on molecular genetics and microbiology.

Degrade to survive: the intricate world of piroplasmid peptidases

Piroplasmid infections have a high negative impact in men and animals. These parasites possess sexual and asexual phases occurring in the tick and vertebrate hosts, respectively. Fulfilling their complex life cycles requires the coordinated execution of numerous metabolic pathways of degradation and synthesis. As well as other parasitic protozoa, they are equipped with different types of peptidases that carry out many of these essential processes. Despite their perceived importance, the functional significance of piroplasmid peptidases remains poorly characterized. Typically, piroplasmids contain over 60 putatively active serine, metallo, cysteine, aspartic and threonine proteases, which are present soluble in the cytosol, inside organelles, bound to the membrane or secreted to the extracellular medium. They also express a similar amount of non-functional protease homologues, with as yet unknown roles. In the vertebrate host, parasite peptidases intervene in entry and exit to and from the host cells, hemoglobin degradation, and intracellular protein degradation in the proteasome, while other possible functions include immune modulation, organelle maturation, apoptosis and virulence. Additionally, some proteases appear to be highly relevant for parasite development in the tick vectors. Consistent with their essential roles, blockade of some key proteases using inhibitors or antibodies can hamper parasite growth, validating their potential usefulness in drug therapies and vaccine development against piroplasmid infections of domestic animals and men.

 
 

Alejandro Cabezas Cruz

UMR BIPAR (INRA, Anses, EnvA), Maisons-Alfort, France

After graduation as Doctor in Veterinary Medicine in 2006, Alejandro joined the Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, in Havana, where he was involved in the study of molecular biology, genetic engineering and biotechnology applied to tick control. In 2013, Alejandro obtained a Marie Curie scholarship and joined the EU-funded project POSTICK at the Institute of Parasitology in the Czech Republic and completed his Master in Parasitology. Then, in 2013 Alejandro enrolled in two PhD programs simultaneously and completed them in 2014 (Spain) and 2016 (France). After a brief post-doc, in 2017 he joined INRAE as a Principal Investigator at the UMR-BIPAR, France. Since 2012, Alejandro has published 135 manuscripts on different aspects of tick research. His scientific results have been recognized by the scientific community and in 2017 he was awarded the 'Odile Bain Memorial Prize' for his outstanding contribution to Parasitology.

The ‘unknown unknowns’ of the tick microbiome

Ticks harbor microbial communities including pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbes. The relation between pathogens and the microbiome is bidirectional. Empirical evidence shows that pathogen acquisition modulates the tick gut microbiome, while at the same time the tick microbiome is a gatekeeper for pathogen colonization of tick tissues. An extra layer of complexity in tick-microbes interactions becomes apparent when we consider that both pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbes modulate tick physiology. Despite the taxonomic variability observed in tick microbiome, the strong phylosymbiotic signal between ticks and their microbial communities suggests that tick-microbiome assemblies are not stochastic. However, the theoretical prediction of a functional tick-microbiome phylosymbiosis has not been empirically tested. To fill this gap, it is necessary to develop precision microbiology tools to assess the role of specific microbiome bacteria in tick-pathogen interactions, tick physiology and vector competence. Recently, we discovered that anti-microbiota vaccines modulate the taxonomic and functional profiles associated with the tick microbiome. The results suggest that targeting specific tick microbiota bacteria with host antibodies can be used as a tool to induce predictable changes in the tick microbiome. This opens up the possibility to engineer the tick microbiome toward states incompatible with tick survival and/or pathogen acquisition and transmission. This is, weaponizing the tick microbiome against ticks and pathogens. In this talk, we aim to explore the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns of the tick microbiome.