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Keith Charnley
Professor Keith Charnley
A locust with a severe fungal infection
A locust with a severe fungal infection
A healthy locust
A healthy locust

Press Release - 02 March 2005

Public lecture on fungal diseases of insects - a tale of exploitation, greed and…friendship

Some of the fungal diseases of insects that are being used as a type of natural pest control will be the subject of a free public lecture at the University of Bath next week (Wednesday 9 March 2005).

Like other animals, insects suffer from a variety of diseases caused by microbes such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. Whilst human fungal pathogens, such as thrush, are not generally life-threatening to otherwise healthy people, many fungal diseases of insects are almost invariably fatal to susceptible individuals.

“Fungal infections cause the most spectacular symptoms of any insect disease and as a consequence have fascinated scientists for centuries,” said Professor Keith Charnley who will be giving the lecture. “Interest in insect fungal pathogens, in particular how fungi get into insects and kill them, has also stemmed from the possibility of using them as specific, natural forms of pest control.”

As part of his lecture, Professor Charnley will describe work at the University of Bath that has shown how fungi acquire nutrition during infection and what affect this has on the host. He will also outline some of the efforts made by insects to defend themselves from fungal attack.

“Fungi can actively invade through an insect’s external skeleton, known as the cuticle, but this barrier keeps non-adapted fungi at bay and is an important component of specificity. Blood-borne defense is well developed but compromised by virulent fungi,” said Professor Charnley.

“Research at the University has also shown that ‘friendly’ bacteria in the guts of certain insects help to prevent invasion through the parts of the alimentary canal that are also lined with cuticle, ensuring that this route of invasion is not straight forward for fungi,” said Professor Charnley who will explore the basis of this 'bacterial antagonism' in his lecture.

Professor Charnley will give the free lecture at the University on Wednesday 9 March 2005 at 6.15pm in the 2 East building in room 3.1.

Free tickets for the lecture, called Fungal diseases of insects - a tale of exploitation, greed and…friendship, are available from Sheila Willmott on 01225 386 631, s.d.willmott@bath.ac.uk.