A look inside the Cairns containment lab

The Brock News got what’s soon to be a rare glimpse inside the Level 3 containment lab in the Cairns Complex.

The lab, where medical entomologist Fiona Hunter and her team of researchers and graduate students will study the West Nile virus and other insect-borne illnesses, is about to be sealed, meaning access to the lab will be limited only to those involved with the unprecedented research.

The lab, known as a CL3, is the only one at a Canadian university. Having this facility available for her work means Hunter will no longer have to rely as heavily on American studies to inform her research. She’ll also no longer need to send insect specimens to a lab in Winnipeg.

“Winnipeg had to focus on insect species endemic to their own region, which are not necessarily the same species we have here,” Hunter said. “That left researchers in Ontario with a significant gap in knowledge. We basically had to extrapolate – guesstimate – our findings for central Canada based on knowledge we had about mosquitoes elsewhere.”

Hunter’s research looks at effects of the virus on mosquitoes to assist in controlling disease-carrying insects.

“There is a lot to be discovered and the Level 3 allows us to ask these sorts of fundamental biological questions,” she said.

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