Title: Research associate professor 
College:
 Public Health and Health Professions; Department of Environmental and Global Health
Expertise:
 Malaria, mosquito midgut biology, vector competence
Hobbies:
 Soccer, rugby, sci-fi

Bernard Okech is a research assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions, and he joined EPI in the summer of 2007. Before that he worked extensively with UF’s Whitney Laboratory in St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. Okech’s laboratory research seeks innovative and environmentally-responsible ways to disrupt pathogen transmission by mosquitoes. In addition, he has conducted extensive studies on molecular and chemical pathways of nutrient (amino acids, ions) absorption in the midguts of larval and adult stages of mosquitoes. Dr. Okech has documented how the quantity of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, in mosquito diet is correlated to xanthurenic acid, a chemical critical to the initiation of development of malaria parasites in the mosquito midgut.

“I am continuing to carry out tests to inhibit the amino acid transport processes in mosquitoes, to suppress mosquito larval growth,” Okech said. “It is only by studying the physiological levels of this chemical, xanthurenic acid, and its impact on the development of malaria in the mosquito, that will allow us to design effective inhibitors that block the absorption of tryptophan, in order to prevent or slow down malaria parasite cycle in mosquitoes and halt malaria transmission to humans.”

The benefit of this research would be to identify highly selective mosquito targets that affect the only mosquitoes but no other species. Using highly targeted insectides in this way would avoid the ecological and environmental damages that broad-spectrum pesticides such as DDT had on an array of birds, mammals, insects and amphibians. Dr. Okech is also working on projects abroad in Haiti and in Kenya. In Haiti, he is exploring studies related to the use of chloroquine as for malaria treatment. Dr. Okech is working with Haitian clinicians to conduct optimized malaria tests and to do follow-up studies on patient treatment outcomes. Due to the earthquake, there is an even greater needed for increased malaria control efforts in Haiti. In Kenya, Dr. Okech continues to maintain his contacts with the National Malaria Control Program. He has proposed to establish a district-level network of trained operators who can evaluate and monitor malaria in their respective districts. Training operators includes teaching them how to identify mosquito species and document parasite rates, and training them on molecular techniques. Dr. Okech is currently accepting graduate students who are interested in malaria or mosquito research, and he teaches a graduate course titled “Environmental Management of Vector Borne Diseases.”

Contact information:
PO Box 100185
Gainesville, Florida 32610-0185
Email: bokech@phhp.ufl.edu
Phone: (352) 273-5254