NIAID promotes and supports a broad range of research projects focused on advancing the understanding of immunology, vector biology, and transmission of vector-borne pathogens. A common feature shared among hematophagous arthropod vectors during blood feeding is the exchange of biologically active molecules and microbiota between the arthropod and the vertebrate host. The arthropod releases salivary factors into the vertebrate host skin and ingests vertebrate-derived cytokines, growth factors, complement components, antibodies, and other potentially bioactive molecules. It is well established that arthropod salivary factors have immunomodulatory effects in the vertebrate host and play a significant role in pathogen transmission and pathogenesis; however, many of the individual salivary components have not yet been identified and the mechanisms by which they act on the vertebrate host are largely unknown. Similarly, the immune defense strategies used by arthropods to combat the influx of vertebrate host factors and microorganisms are not well understood, nor are their effects on vector and pathogen fitness.
Research Objectives and Scope
The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to encourage new exploratory, developmental, and transdisciplinary research to understand the immunologic events that occur during blood feeding by hematophagous arthropods. Given current knowledge gaps, some research areas may require descriptive projects. Another goal of this FOA is to foster new and/or strengthen existing collaborations between vector biologists and immunologists.
The scientific objectives of this initiative are: (1) to understand the immunologic events in the vertebrate host, which occur during and after blood feeding by hematophagous arthropods, at the bite site (skin) and systemically; (2) to identify and characterize arthropod salivary components that exhibit immune modulatory properties; and (3) to define the immunologic events in the hematophagous arthropods following a blood meal.
Examples of research topics supported by this initiative include, but are not limited to:
- Characterization of the immunologic events in the vertebrate host, which occur during and after blood feeding by hematophagous arthropods, at the bite site (skin) and systemically.
- Identification and analysis of salivary factors secreted into vertebrate skin during blood feeding and their role in immune modulation. Salivary factors include proteins, RNA, peptides, lipids, nucleosides, small molecules, etc.
- Determination of arthropod immune strategies to respond to vertebrate factors (insulin, complement, etc.) and/or the effects that these factors have on arthropod biological processes.
- Determination of the mechanisms that lead to galactose- α -1,3-galactose ( α -gal) allergy (Mammalian meat allergy) following a tick bite.
- Examination of the exchange of microbiota between the arthropod and vertebrate host and the influence these microbes have on the immune environment of the vector and/or host.
Research areas NOT appropriate for this FOA include:
- Studies which focus solely on the pathogen.
- Studies which do not include an immunological component from either the vertebrate host or the hematophagous arthropod vector.
In addition to addressing the immediate scientific objectives, studies supported by this initiative will have broader implication. Identification and characterization of novel immunologically active molecules from blood-feeding arthropods could lead to the identification of new adjuvants, therapeutic drugs for the treatment of inflammation or autoimmune disease, or new antigenic targets for the development of vaccines against arthropod saliva.
Collaborative Research: Applicants are encouraged to form transdisciplinary teams of scientists composed of vector biologists and immunologist.
Deadlines: October 15, 2018, June 14, 2019, February 14, 2020, October 15, 2020
Filed Under: Funding Opportunities