Professor Scott O'Neill is researching the biology of bacterial parasites of invertebrates.
Our lab focuses on the biology of Wolbachia, an inherited bacterial parasite of invertebrates. Wolbachia are capable of exerting profound effects on the hosts they infect such as inducing developmental defects like cytoplasmic incompatibility, inducing parthenogenetic development, overriding chromosomal sex determination, selectively killing males and even functioning as classical mutualists.
Our lab is interested in determining the molecular mechanisms by which these agents exert these effects. An applied aspect of this work is the potential utilization of these systems to manipulate the ability of insect disease vectors to transmit pathogens to humans. This might be achieved by using Wolbachia to drive transmission blocking genotypes into wild populations or to use Wolbachia to modify the age structure of vector populations.