Media releases

  • Dry summer makes mosquito collection challenging for Brock’s Zika researchers

    MEDIA RELEASE: R00171 – 15 August 2016

    It’s been a frustrating summer for researchers working on the Zika virus in Brock University’s CL3 lab.

    The drought blanketing much of Ontario is not only adversely impacting crops; it’s also hurting mosquito populations.

    “Our trap catches for mosquitoes are so low this year, it is unprecedented for us,” said Professor Fiona Hunter, a medical entomologist. “Normally we’d be getting hundreds and hundreds of mosquitoes in traps. Now we are lucky if we get a dozen. It’s that bad.”

    She said mosquitoes breed in standing water, which is in short supply in Niagara and much of the province.

    Fewer mosquitoes out biting people is good news from a public health perspective. But, for researchers on the cutting-edge of research into Zika transmission and the mosquito vectors capable of spreading it, a shortage of the local pests is disappointing.

    The research team had hoped to be testing thousands of mosquitoes a week throughout the summer, rather than dozens.

    “It means that we may not get the full story this year,” Hunter said.

    So far this summer, Hunter and her team of graduate students have tested a half dozen species of mosquitoes caught locally. None of them can transmit the Zika virus.

    There are 67 species of mosquitoes in Ontario and Brock’s researchers continue to set weekly CDC light traps to catch as many as possible.

    “We take those mosquitos back to the lab and try to feed them in the CL3 lab on infected blood,” Hunter explained. Brock’s CL3 lab with an insectary is the only one of its kind in a Canadian university.

    The Public Health Agency of Canada sent Brock two strains of the Zika virus, one from an outbreak in Thailand in 2013 and the other a sample from Puerto Rico’s outbreak in 2016.

    Zika has gained notoriety, and spread fear across the Americas, since moving from Africa and French Polynesia to South America.

    In Brazil, the virus has caused a public health emergency and is being linked to an increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome as well as a surge in the number of babies born with microcephaly – an abnormal smallness of the head.

    In March, Hunter went to Brazil for a global summit focussed on the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito, which at the time was believed to be the main vector for the virus.

    But, Hunter said another genus (or classification) of mosquitoes is emerging as a potential vector as well.

    “It means that Zika is not restricted to only one or two mosquito vectors, which we’ve actually known all along because there were always over 20 mosquitoes that tested positive for Zika in the early literature from Africa. The idea of its being in this other Culex genus raises questions about how they are trying to control Zika in places like Brazil and even Florida,” she said, noting breeding areas and habits can vary by genus.

    The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, a species also known to vector Zika, is found farther north in the U.S. than Aedes aegypti, which isn’t found in Canada.

    One of Hunter’s students is specifically looking for the Asian tiger mosquito and its eggs in Niagara.

    “We’ve got the perfect climate here for them,” Hunter said.
    She said the species was found in Niagara more than a decade ago but hasn’t established itself this far north.

    Despite the shortage of mosquitoes, Hunter and her team continue their research using colony mosquitoes.

    “We have been able to confirm that Aedes aegypti can transmit the virus. We wanted to make sure we have a positive control. We’ve successfully infected and seen transmission,” she said. “We know that we can run these experiments.”

    Hunter is still holding out hope for more mosquitoes, noting in a typical year the pesky insects can be caught until the end of October.

    Professor Fiona Hunter is available for limited media interviews this week.

    For more information or to arrange an interview:
    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Brock to host downtown Homecoming tailgate party and Steel Blade hockey game

    MEDIA RELEASE: R00170 – 9 August 2016

    The Brock Badgers are once again taking their show on the road, this time hitting the ice in the heart of downtown St. Catharines.

    For the first time ever, the Steel Blade Classic hockey game will be held at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines. The Badgers will take on the Guelph Gryphons on Friday, Sept. 16, and the game will be preceded by a Homecoming Tailgate Party in the adjacent parking lot of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    The tailgate party will kick off Homecoming Weekend and is open to everyone in Niagara — whether associated with the University or not.

    “This will become one of the marquee events of Brock’s Homecoming Weekend,” said Brian Hutchings, Acting President. “We want the Niagara community to come downtown and enjoy the festivities with us.”

    The tailgate party will feature music, a barbecue, games for kids, a beer tent and more.

    The Steel Blade Classic hockey game follows at 7 p.m. and builds on a pair of Brock Badgers men’s and women’s basketball doubleheaders that were held at the Meridian Centre last season.

    “From a venue perspective, because of the energy that is created by the fans at the Meridian Centre, this is a great way to take Brock sport to the next level, which is what we’re going to do,” said Brock University Director of Athletics and Recreation Neil Lumsden.

    Brock officially announced the Homecoming Tailgate Party and Steel Blade hockey game Tuesday at Kully’s Original Sports Bar, where Lumsden also challenged Guelph Athletic Director and Brock alumnus Scott McRoberts to a friendly wager over the result.

    “The Gryphons are very much looking forward to playing in such a prestigious event and continuing a renewed rivalry with the Badgers,” McRoberts said. “Playing at the Meridian Centre will be an amazing opportunity for our student-athletes and coaches. I think the Steel Blade Classic will continue to be a tradition for years to come and we know the Badgers will host a top-notch event.”

    This year marks the 18th edition of the Steel Blade Classic, and it has become one of the hottest tickets of the year for Brock students and Niagara hockey fans. Last year’s game at the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre, where the Badgers typically play their home games, was packed with boisterous fans. The Homecoming game has been sold out the past five years.

    “Clearly, this event has outgrown our current facility and the new setting provides a world-class, comfortable venue for more community-wide participation and celebration of Homecoming,” said men’s hockey head coach Murray Nystrom.

    While this year’s Steel Blade will be a one-game tilt, the Steel Blade Classic has been a tournament in the past and, in 2015, the Badgers edged the Gryphons 5-4 in the championship game. Brock has been crowned Steel Blade champions the past five years and nine times in the tournament’s history.

    “One of the original objectives for Steel Blade was to offer an annual hockey event that links the history of our region with our community and the University. We continue to accomplish that and, over time, our players, fans, students and alumni have shared those connections,” said Nystrom. “That has created a certain level of expectation when it comes to on-ice performance, but that’s a good thing. Our players and staff relish that challenge.”

    Lumsden said OHL fans will enjoy the calibre of university hockey.

    “CIS hockey is a bit of a hidden gem because when you look at the pedigree of these hockey players and where they’ve come, it translates into a very high level of hockey,” he said.

    Worth noting is that the championship trophy that carries the name of the annual Steel Blade winner is a sword donated by the Werner family. It was the sword carried by Sergeants of the Upper Canada Artillery Units and Royal Artillery during the War of 1812 and is a priceless piece of Canadian history.

    The tailgate party is free and public tickets for the hockey game are available at A limited number of free student tickets will be available from the Walker Complex Welcome Desk in September.

    About the event

    Homecoming Tailgate Party
    Friday, Sept. 16, 4 p.m.
    Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Parking Lot

    Brock Badgers vs. Guelph Gryphons Steel Blade Classic Hockey Game
    Friday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m.
    Meridian Centre

    For more information or to arrange interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases