Rita Žiegytė

Postdoc researcher dr. Rita Žiegytė

Postdoc duration: 2017–2020

Postdoc supervisor: prof. habil. dr. Sigitas Podėnas

Postdoc topic: Species identification of the biting midges and black flies involved in transmission of haemosporidian parasites

Although worldwide species diversity of blood-sucking biting midges (Culicoides) and black flies (Simuliidae) is immense (approximately 3000 species), only several tens of species are known to be involved in transmission of haemosporidian infections.The above-mentioned insects are still among the least studied vectors of haemosporidian parasites.

We presume that not yet known species of blood-sucking biting midges and black flies are also involved in transmission of haemosporidian parasites. We will determine the ornithophilic species of these dipterans and carry out experimental studies into the sporogony of Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon parasites.

The chief aim of this project is to acquire skills in the identification of ornithophilic species of biting midges and black flies in which the sporogony of haemosporidian parasites occurs. Tasks of the current project are as follows: 1. To determine the ornithophilic species of biting midges and black flies and their infection with Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon parasites using molecular research methods 2. Having mastered methodologies for species identification of blood-sucking insects, to determine the ornithophilic species of biting midges and black flies. 3. To carry out experimental investigations of the sporogony of Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon parasites in the identified species of biting midges and black flies.

Studies will be carried out using traditional, taxonomic and molecular research methods (microscopy, PCR, sequencing, phylogenetic analysis). Results of this study are expected to broaden the knowledge of vector species of the infections caused by parasites of Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon genera and their transmission in nature. For the first time, the study into the involvement of black flies (Simuliidae), one of the most economically harmful species, in transmission of parasites of the genus Leucocytozoon in Lithuania will be carried out. The obtained findings will help predict bird diseases. Also, they will deepen the understanding of the epidemiology of blood-sucking insect-borne diseases and will undoubtedly play a significant role in developing preventive measures aimed to control the spread of new infections in Lithuania and in neighbouring European countries.