Sex pheromones of male insects and disease control


Posted on 01 February 2012
Using synthetic versions of male sex pheromones has offered the possibility of using lure-and-kill traps that are highly specific for the females of the species of sand fly targeted.


A leading researcher at Keele will be giving the latest lecture in the University’s series of Inaugural Lectures on Tuesday, 7 February, 2012. Professor Gordon Hamilton, Life Sciences at Keele, will be speaking on “Sex pheromones of male insects and disease control”.

Some of the world’s most debilitating and pernicious diseases are the result of parasitic infection caused by the activity of blood-feeding insects. Malaria is the most important of these diseases but Leishmaniasis is also of global significance but is described by the WHO as a Neglected Tropical Disease with “no visibility or concept on how to handle the disease”. Sand flies can spread Leishmaniasis from animals to humans and between humans when a female sand fly takes a blood meal from an infected host.  These insects are common throughout the tropics and subtropics and around 50 species are important as disease vectors.

Therapeutic drugs are available but they are expensive, unpleasant and not always effective and thus in the absence of human vaccines, prevention of infection is dependent on controlling the insect vector. Vector control can involve habitat management but it is largely dependent on the widespread use of expensive insecticides and their overuse can lead to resistance and unwanted environmental consequences. Alternative or complimentary strategies for sand fly control are urgently required.

Research on the Old and New World vectors of Leishmaniasis has pointed towards the exploitation of the chemical communication of male and female sand flies as a strategy to enhance or replace current vector control methodology. Using synthetic versions of male sex pheromones has offered the possibility of using lure-and-kill traps that are highly specific for the females of the species of sand fly targeted.

Professor Hamilton completed a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at Old Dominion University/ Eastern Virginia Medical School, USA 1989. He did Postdoctoral Research at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine before joining Keele University in 1995.

Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett. Admission is free; no ticket is required.

The other lectures in the series are:

Monday, 27 February, 2012, Professor Richard Luther, Politics, "Political Parties: who needs them?"; Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, Professor Robert Ladrech, Politics, "Political Parties and the European Project"; Tuesday, 17 April, 2012, Professor Robin Jeffries, Astrophysics, "A star is born"; Tuesday, 8 May, 2012, Professor Carole Thornley, Management, "Why are the low-paid always with us?"; Monday, 11 June,  2012, Professor Andy Hassell, Medicine, "The patient with arthritis, the medical student and the rheumatologist: influencing tomorrow's doctors".