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Dr. Blair’s research interests at the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory at Colorado State focus on the molecular biology of interactions between arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) and their mosquito hosts. She is particularly interested in the molecular genetic mechanisms that determine the ability of arboviruses to establish persistent, noncytocidal, life-long infections in mosquitoes even though they can cause serious disease in vertebrate hosts. Much of our recent work has explored the dengue virus-Aedes aegypti system.
Dengue (DEN) viruses, serotypes 1-4, are Flaviviruses that annually cause at least 100 million human infections throughout the tropical range of their principal vector, Aedes aegypti. She was first to show that RNA interference (RNAi) is a major component of the mosquito innate immune response. Natural DENV2 infection of Ae. aegypti adult mosquitoes triggers the RNAi response. RNAi can be enhanced to block DENV infection of mosquitoes, but in most infections, replication and transmission of infectious virus persists, suggesting viral circumvention of RNAi. She is currently investigating the genetics, the molecular components and the mechanisms of RNAi as well as the means of viral evasion of this important mosquito immune response. Her ultimate goal is to devise new strategies to interrupt transmission of DENV by Ae. aegypti.