What is the most exciting discovery you have made in your career so far?
That when viruses infect mosquitoes, they alter the mosquito metabolome so significantly to benefit their replication, but do not seem to make the mosquito sick. Also, different viruses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya, alter the mosquito metabolome so differently. This provides evidence that they can infect the same mosquito (co-exist) and not have to compete with each other to be transmitted. This was mind-blowing to me.
What are you looking forward to most about your research?
I am very excited to move this field forward and to utilize metabolism as a way to choke virus replication in both the human host and mosquito vector. Most drugs or inhibitors are metabolites. So using these metabolites to divert metabolic pathways to interfere with virus infections (starve the virus of necessary nutrients) is a promising avenue for intervention. Specifically, we can re-purpose many drugs that are already on the market that are used for metabolic diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc., and use them as antivirals – we will only need to use them for a very short period of time to reduce virus replication and give the immune system a chance to overcome the infection.