Profile of 2018 MCE-VBD Research Fellow Sulagna Chakraborty
I am an MCE-VBD 2018 Research Fellow from the University of Illinois, and I had the opportunity to be involved in several projects under the mentorship of Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz and Dr. Rebecca Smith.
I was part of the summer field surveillance team in Illinois that collected the ticks of interest namely Ixodes scapularis, Amblyomma americanum and Dermacenter variabilis. I worked on a project to determine the optimum number of mosquito traps necessary to determine accurate MIR for Illinois using the value of information concept. Additionally, I worked on a literature review of the role of cattle and livestock in vector borne diseases. The combination of these projects provided perspective on the current state of VBD research done at the public health departments and University level. I also realized the different responsibilities and processes that are part of VBD-related work.
Sulagna assisting with tick dragging in Effingham County, during the Southern Illinois Tick Blitz in June 2018
This fellowship helped me gain a lot of experience in field surveillance and the different methods of tick collection such as timed dragging versus dual crossed profile transect dragging in addition to the importance of site selection. I also learned about field data collection and recording processes and quick identification of the collected ticks. I believe if I have to collect my own tick data this experience will be very useful. The literature summary also helped me understand the myriad ways in which cattle are involved in different VBDs that impact both animals and humans. Although, the exact mechanism by which cattle may help in the amplification of pathogen/s or the maintenance of vector/s in the environment is unknown, this review exposed me to this area of research.
Preparing I-TICK Surveillance Kits
I was present on the statewide All Hands meetings, as I learned about surveillance, case follow up and the preventative steps that were taken by the different states’ public health departments. I subscribe to Pro-MED alerts and keep reading reports of different outbreaks in every corner of the world, but this time I was aware of cases that occurred and was privy to the steps that were taken, even before Pro-MED reported the news. This was definitely one of the highlights of my fellowship and helped me gain more understanding of the procedures in surveillance and monitoring of diseases.
I believe through this fellowship I developed critical skills and also insights into the kinds of work done in VBD research which will shape my career trajectory in graduate school and in the future.