Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc, PhD, Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (FRES)

Daniel Bray joined NRI in January 2016, moving from the Chemical Ecology Group at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

Daniel graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2000 with a first class degree in Biological Science and worked for the Open University while still an undergraduate. He then went on to complete a PhD in 2004 on host-parasite interactions in shrews, supervised by Prof. Paula Stockley at the University of Liverpool. For almost ten years, he worked with Prof. Gordon Hamilton at Keele University and Prof. Reginaldo Brazil at FIOCRUZ on the chemical ecology of sand flies, conducting extensive field work in Brazil. He also worked briefly with Prof. Jenny Mordue at the University of Aberdeen on a projecting targeting sea lice parasites of salmon. During this period he also completed a Medici Business Fellowship.

In 2013 Daniel was awarded a Senior Visiting Fellowship by the DAAD to conduct a project on aquaculture with Dr Joanna Miest at GEOMAR in Germany. In 2014 he was awarded an EU Marie Curie Fellowship to work with Prof. Rickard Ignell at SLU (Sweden) targeting biting midge vectors of agricultural diseases.

Daniel's main interest lies in understanding and exploiting chemical ecology to improve animal and human health. In addition, he is also exploring how chemical ecology can be used to detect and prevent disease in aquaculture. Daniel is also an expert statistician, and regularly conducts data analysis consultancy for agricultural companies.

Daniel's primary interest is to develop new ways to protect animals and people from blood-feeding insects which transmit serious diseases. His approach centres on identifying chemicals that provoke a behavioural response in the target species, which can be formulated as attractive lures or repellents. His work encompasses physiological techniques including electroantennography and single sensillum recording, laboratory bioassays on target species, and field testing and formulation of novel attractants and repellents. Working with Prof. Gordon Hamilton at Keele University, Daniel developed and tested a novel pheromone based tool for controlling Lutzomyia longipalpis, the sand fly vector of visceral leishmaniasis in Brazil.

Daniel is also very interested in how this same approach could be applied in an aquatic setting. At the University of Aberdeen he was involved in identifying chemicals which could be used to attract the sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis. These small crustaceans are parasites of salmon, and cause major economic losses in farmed fish. More recently, he has worked to develop a novel application of chemical ecology to detected disease in aquaculture.

Field testing of a sustainable tool for protecting livestock from biting midges in Southern Sweden. (2015). Gösta och Anna-Brigit Henrikssons fond. Engaging with end users in agriculture and health care is a key components of Daniel's approach to chemical ecology. This project provided funds to test potential attractants and repellents for use against biting midges on Swedish farmland.

MIDGETRAP-An innovative semiochemical based tool for monitoring and control of biting midge vectors of bluetongue and Schmallenberg disease. (2014) EU Intra-European Fellowship for career development. Culicoides biting midges cause pain and distress to both animals and people. Through bloodfeeding, they transmit diseases fatal to livestock which threaten the sustainability of agriculture worldwide. This project, conducted with Professor Rickard Ignell and Dr Elin Isberg at the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences, aimed to take a chemical ecology based approach to protect livestock from biting midges. A combination of electrophysiology, behavioural bioassays and field trials was used to explore the potential of using natural farmyard odours to attract midges to cost-effective traps.

Reducing the impact of disease on the sustainability of international aquaculture through an innovative odour-based detection system. (2013). Senior visiting fellowship, DAAD, Germany. Disease represents a major threat to the sustainability of aquaculture. As natural stocks become depleted, artificial rearing represents the only viable solution for producing fish to feed the World's growing population. The practice of exploiting chemical ecology as a means of controlling and diagnosing disease in terrestrial systems is now well established. This collaboration with Dr J. Miest at GEOMAR is exploring how a similar approach could be used to reduce the burden of disease in aquaculture.

Field trials of synthetic sex pheromone to reduce visceral leishmaniasis transmission by Lutzomyia longipalpis in Brazil. (2005-2015), PI Gordon Hamilton, Keele University.
Visceral leishmaniasis is a fatal disease which affects some of the poorest communities worldwide. There is no vaccine, and treatment is often unpleasant and prohibitively expensive. As a consequence, new techniques are desperately needed to target populations of sandflies which transmit the disease through blood-feeding.

Daniel worked on this project, initially funded by the Leverhulme trust then the Wellcome Trust, both in the UK and Brazil. Starting with laboratory bioassays, the results showed a combination of sex pheromone and host odour was needed to attract L. longipalpis, the vector of visceral leishmaniasis in Brazil. Funded field trials then demonstrated that a synthetic version of the sex pheromone, formulated into a lure, can be used to attract sand flies to insecticide-treated chicken sheds, where they can be killed in potentially large numbers. Ongoing field trials are examining the impact that this novel technology can have on the prevalence of leishmaniasis in dogs, the natural reservoir of the disease in South America. This technology is one of the first examples of a viable, pheromone-based solution for controlling a vector of a fatal human disease.

  • Isberg, E., Bray, D.P., Birgersson, G., Hillbur, Y., and Ignell, R. (2015) Identification of cattle-derived volatiles that modulate the behavioral response of the biting midge Culicoides nubeculosus. Journal of Chemical Ecology (in press).
  • Bray, D.P., Carter, V., Alves, G.B., Brazil, R.P., Bandi, K.K., and Hamilton, J.G.C. (2014) Synthetic sex pheromone in a long-lasting lure attracts the visceral leishmaniasis vector, Lutzomyia longipalpis, for up to 12 weeks in Brazil. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 8, e2723.
  • Bray, D.P., Yaman, K., Underhilll, B.A., Mitchell, F., Carter, V., and Hamilton, J.G.C. (2014).Multi-modal analysis of courtship behaviour in the old world leishmaniasis vector Phlebotomus argentipes. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 8, e3316.
  • Pinto, M.C., Bray D.P., Eiras., A.E. et al. (2012) Attraction of the cutaneous leishmaniasis vector Nyssomyia neivai (Diptera: Psychodidae) to host odour components in a wind tunnel. Parasites and Vectors, 5, 210.
  • Bray, D.P., Alves, G.B., Dorval, M.E., Brazil, R.P., and Hamilton, J.G.C. (2010) Synthetic sex pheromone attracts the leishmaniasis vector Lutzomyia longipalpis to experimental chicken sheds treated with insecticide. Parasites and Vectors, 3, 16.
  • Bray D.P., Ward, R.D., and Hamilton, J.G.C. (2007) The chemical ecology of sandflies (Diptera: Psychodidae) In: Takken, W., and Knols, B.G.J. (eds.) Olfaction in vector-host interactions. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Press, pp. 213-216.
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