Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Texas Tech Biologist Trying to Discover Cure for Devastating Insect-Borne Illness

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 24, 2010

Kai Zhang has made it his mission to cure Leishmania, the second-leading parasitic killer.

They’re about a third of the size of a mosquito, but the sandfly’s bite can pack a miserable, if not lethal, punch.

It’s not that the sandfly itself is poisonous. But the parasitic Leishmania protozoa in its saliva can cause anything from itchy skin irritation or disfiguring ulcers that take months to heal to a painful attack on the body’s organs that could eventually lead to death.

Deadly Protozoa

But one Texas Tech researcher is dedicating his career to finding the chink in the armor of these protozoa, which, in its most virulent form, is the second-leading parasitic killer after Malaria.

Kai Zhang, an assistant professor of biology, has studied the protozoa since 2000. He recently received a Recovery Act award of $136,000 from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study certain infection-causing lipid molecules in Leishmania in the hopes of diffusing them and rendering the organism harmless.

“You can find sandflies mostly in the Middle East, Africa, some parts of South and Central America – mainly tropical and sub-tropical areas,” Zhang said. “It’s kind of a blood-sucking insect. It can transmit the infective organism into humans or animals. Humans are just one of Leishmania’s hosts, and we’re probably accidental hosts. The natural hosts in the world are rodents and canines.”  Read the full story here

One Response to “Texas Tech Biologist Trying to Discover Cure for Devastating Insect-Borne Illness”

  1. Marlo said

    How many years did it take for the government to finally uncover their eyes to the devastation that unknown insects, toxins and other forms of bacteria from areas our immune systems don’t know. How many have to suffer before someone says OPPS. Why is it that the public schools systems care more about Insect-Borne Illnesses. Why do our soldiers, contractors and now wifes and children because they have been turning a blind eye to what is happening.

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