Diseases caused by pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites transmitted to hosts by blood-sucking insects and ticks, are the most prevalent infectious diseases in humans.

For many of these diseases, the insects and ticks are essential for transmission of the pathogen to a human host, and some are diabolically effective in fulfilling that mission, using a strong sense of odor detection to navigate along the way.

What if one could manipulate how these organisms used the sense of smell, tailoring their very biological impulses to work against them?

Dr. John Hildebrand, regents professor, Department of Neuroscience at the University of Arizona, will be presenting “The Most Dangerous Animals in the World: Arthropod Vectors of Disease” on May 1 at 4:30 p.m. in room 1909 of the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center.

The lecture, part of the Notable Neuroscience series hosted by the WVU Center for Neuroscience, is about using odor driven behavior of disease-carrying insects as a means of disease control.

Hildebrand will also present a more technical lecture specifically for the scientific community at noon, in room 301 of the Erma Byrd Biomedical Research Center.

Both lectures are free and open to the public.

Andrew Dacks, WVU Assistant Professor

“(Dr. Hildebrand) has had such an enormous influence on our understanding of the sense of smell, and how we can try to use that to deal with all these terrible diseases that are vectored by these insects,” said Andrew Dacks, assistant professor of biology at WVU.

“Just consider mosquitos alone. They are really the most dangerous species—we’re talking millions upon millions of deaths per year and this is happening in the poorest nations who can least afford to have these things going on, and the simple fact of the matter is, pesticides alone aren’t going to cut it,” he said.

Hildebrand is a world-renowned neuroscientist who has been at the forefront of research on the sense of smell for decades. He is a member of the National Academy of Science and was recently elected the Foreign Secretary to the National Academy of Science.

Before joining Arizona in 1985, Hildebrand taught at Harvard University and Columbia University. His research focuses on insect nervous systems and behavior, and he is a frequent consultant to federal agencies, private foundations and companies.

“It’s rare to have this kind of opportunity to see a scientist of this stature give a lecture,” Dacks said.

For more information, contact Dacks at 304-293-3205 or amdacks@mail.wvu.edu