Arthropod vectors

Laboratory of Special Pathogens - Center for Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases

  • Principal Researcher: José Antonio Oteo
  • Researcher in charge of the Laboratory: Aránzazu Portillo
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Sonia Santibáñez
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Paula Santibáñez
  • Predoctoral Researcher: Ana Mª Palomar
  • Predoctoral Researcher: Ignacio Ruiz

Research

The group is dedicated to the study of zoonoses, especially to diseases transmitted by arthropods (ticks, fleas, lice, chiggers, other mites, and more recently mosquitoes), from a multidisciplinary point of view.

Research Lines

The projects and mission of this research line about arthropod vectors have these main objectives:

  • To contribute to the improvement of human and veterinary public health in the field of zoonoses and especially in arthropod-borne diseases under One Health perspective: environmental monitoring, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Surveillance and diagnosis of emerging infections.

Currently, the team members are developing competitive national projects (FIS PI15 / 02269) and they participate in national and international research networks, such as the Network of Biological Alert Laboratories (RE-LAB), the Spanish Research Network on Infectious Pathology ) and the European Network for Vector Neglected Vectors and Vector-Borne infections (EurNegVec TD1303 COST Action).

Principal Researcher

José Antonio Oteo

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 770 (Ext.: 89871)

Biosketch

José Antonio Oteo (MD, PhD in Medicine and Surgery, University of Navarra, 1990) is a Specialist in Internal Medicine (MIR Program carried out at Hospital Virgen del Camino, Pamplona, Spain). He has been the Head of the Internal Medicine Service of the Hospital of La Rioja and Hospital San Millán-San Pedro- in La Rioja. He is currently the Head of the Infectious Diseases Department (formerly known as Clinical Management Area) at the Hospital San Pedro, La Rioja (Spain). He is also the Head of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Center for Biomedical Research of La Rioja (CIBIR), which includes three units: the Laboratory of Special Pathogens (Center of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases); the Unit of Infectious Diseases, Microbiota and Metabolism and the Unit of Infections, Inflammation and Aging. In this research center, he manages and supervises a laboratory equipped with the latest technologies in molecular and cellular biology and a biosafety level-3 facility for handling dangerous and fastidious microorganisms.

In the field of arthropod vectors research, the group that he leads has been pioneer in the description of new tick-borne diseases, such as DEBONEL, and/or non-previously described illnesses in our environment. They have also significantly contributed to the isolation and involvement of new microorganisms in human pathology, such as Rickettsia monacensis or the new Rickettsia rioja. Besides, other Rickettsia spp., such as Rickettsia vini or Rickettsia colombianensi (to date no associated with human diseases), have been characterized. The biggest series of patients with Lyme disease in Spain and studies in the arthropod vectors have been also reported by this group. The first cases of human anaplasmosis in the South of Europe, the first cases of Rickettsia sibirica mongolitimonae infection, the first implication of Rickettsia massiliae as human pathogen in America, the first case of neurotoxic paralysis after tick-bite, the circulation of Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis in Spain, and the description of tularemia after tick-bite are among other relevant achievements. The first cluster of cases of human Rickettsia felis infection in Spain and the first infestation with trombiculid mites (Neotrombicula inopinata) as causative agents of seasonal dermatitis in the world have been also described by this group. It is also worth mentioning the first description of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in ticks from Occidental Europe and in ticks removed from migratory birds in the North of Africa. These findings were essential for a rapid health response to the first two autochthonous cases detected in Spain in August-September 2016. In addition, this group has managed more than 1 million euros in research funding in recent years.

Concerning his activity in the Unit of Infectious Diseases, Microbiota and Metabolism he has focused his interest on the study of gut microbiota composition in different infectious and relevant pathologies through next-generation technologies. He has also been involved in the analyses of data obtained by transcriptomics and lipidomics in order to find out early biomarkers of these pathologies. In addition, he has also participated in several national and international projects in this field and has published several studies in high impact journals.

His experience in lecturing includes the post-graduate training of resident doctors, his involvement in several PhD courses carried out in different Universities as well as his contributions as Invited Professor in several courses in the field of Medicine and Nursing. He is the Professor in charge of the practices of medical students in the Hospital San Pedro and the person in charge of lecturing Physiology-I in the Degree of Nursing of the University of La Rioja. He has supervised several Doctoral Theses, Diploma of Advanced Studies (DEAs), Master Projects and Final-Degree Projects. He is accredited by the ANECA as Profesor Titular de Universidad in the area of Medicine.

As result of his research activity, he has published more than 350 publications in scientific journals, books and monographs. During his professional practice he has participated, as principal investigator (PI) in most cases, in numerous competitive research projects.

He currently leads a clinical group associated with the Spanish Infectious Pathology Research Network (REIPI); his team is also part of the Spanish AIDS Research Network (RIS); he is an expert of the VectorNet network, which depends on the ECDCs, and is member of the European Network for Neglected Vectors and Vector-Borne Infections (EurNegVec Cost Action). Recently, his team has joined the Network of Biological Alert Laboratories (RE-LAB), set up to respond to threats by dangerous biological agents. His contributions frequently appear in official programs of national and international congresses of relevance in the field of infectious diseases. He has been the Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Congress of the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (SEIMC) and President of several National and International Study Groups, such as the Special Pathogens group of the SEIMC and the Coxiella, Anaplasma, Rickettsia and Bartonella group from the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID). He is part of the editorial committee of several scientific journals and acts as evaluator of the National Agency for Evaluation and Prospecting (ANEP) and of different agencies from other countries such as Portugal, Norway and Argentina. He has also the honor of having received numerous scientific and social awards.

Publications

 

ncbi

 

Work Team

Aránzazu Portillo

Aránzazu Portillo

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 871 (Ext.:89871)

Biosketch

Aránzazu Portillo is PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of La Rioja (UR) and Bachelor of Science Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Navarra. She was awarded a Research Personnel Training (FPI) grant from the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC) to get her PhD in the UR supervised by Prof. Carmen Torres and Prof. Fernanda Ruiz. She performed a stay at the National University of Piura (Perú) under financial support of the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation (AECI). She subsequently completed her training with a stay, financially funded by MEC, in Pfizer Global Research and Development Pharmaceutical Laboratories in Groton, CT (USA) under supervision of Dr. Joyce A. Sutcliffe. Once she had obtained her doctorate in 2002, she started to work as the responsible researcher in the setting up of the Special Pathogens Laboratory, attached to the Infectious Diseases Department under supervision of Dr. José A. Oteo. Currently, this facility (called Center of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases) is located at CIBIR, and it has a biosafety 3-level laboratory for the culture of dangerous microorganisms, accredited as a Reference Laboratory within the Network of Biological Alert Laboratories (RE-LAB).

She is devoted to the study of zoonosis under a one health prism. Specifically, she is focused on arthropod-borne diseases like rickettsiosis, Lyme borreliosis, Bartonella infections, anaplasmosis, Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) or Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE), among others, as part of a multidisciplinary team. She leads as main researcher the development of molecular, serological and culture methods to give support to the diagnosis of these infections in the framework of the EMER Programme for emergent research groups from the National System of Health (SNS), accredited by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III. She has been actively involved in the implication of new microorganisms in human pathology (Rickettsia rioja) or in the detection of microorganisms in ticks for the first time in our country (CCHF virus, Candidatus Neoehrichia mikurensis or Borrelia miyamotoi) or in the description of new bacteria (Rickettsia colombianensiRickettsia vini...), in the characterization of the microbiome of arthropods or in the study of Bartonella spp. in sanitary personnel, among other issues. She has participated in more than 25 competitive national and international projects and networks, as collaborator or as main researcher. Currently, she is the main researcher of a national project co-leaded with Dr. Oteo and focused on the evaluation of techniques for the diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis. She is also member of the Spanish Network for research in infectious Diseases (REIPI), focal point of RE-LAB and member of a RDI Unit Associated to CSIC.

Since her Ph.D. thesis defense (in 2002) up to the present, she has played tasks teaching and research as part-time professor at the University of La Rioja with intermittent contracts teaching Biochemistry, Experimentation in Biochemistry, Oenological Biochemistry, Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She has participated in Ph.D. courses and she teaches subjects of Master Degree. She holds ANECA accreditation as Profesor Titular de Universidad, Profesor Ayudante Doctor, Profesor Contratado Doctor and Profesor de Universidad Privada.

She has led four Ph.D. thesis, four Master's Thesis and three Diploma of Advanced Studies (DEA), and she is involved in the direction of current projects. She has published more than 90 manuscripts in scientific journals with high impact factor and she has served as evaluator of grant agencies and has acted as reviewer in many different scientific journals. She has taken part as guest speaker at national and international meetings and her group has received awards by different research works from National and International Academies and Scientific Societies.

Publications

 

ncbi

 

Sonia Santibáñez

Sonia Santibáñez

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 870 (Ext.:89870)

Biosketch

Sonia studied Fundamental and Health Biology at the University of Navarra, where she graduated in 2003. At the end of that year, she obtained a grant from the Health Research Fund of the Carlos III Health Institute to study tick-borne diseases in La Rioja, and she joined to the Research Group of Dr. José Antonio Oteo. In 2008 the group obtained a research project within the Carlos III Health Institute program to favor the incorporation of research groups in the National Health System Institutions, within the framework of the National Science and Technology strategy with horizon 2015 (BOE June 21, 2007) and she became part of the group's staff as a researcher. In 2012 she obtained a doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of La Rioja with the thesis titled: Utility of different PCR targets in the molecular diagnosis of Tick-borne Human Rickettsiosis, directed by Dr. José Antonio Oteo and Dr. Aránzazu Portillo.

She currently works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Center of Rickettsioses and Arthropod borne diseases, attached to the Department of Infectious Diseases of the Hospital San Pedro-CIBIR. She has participated in various national and international projects on diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors and she has 26 publications in PubMed.

She is a member of RE-Lab (national network of biological alert laboratories). She is specialized in the microbiological diagnosis of rickettsiosis: molecular methods, serological tests and cell culture (laboratories with biosafety level 2 and 3). Since 2016 she has been an evaluator of the High Council for Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (HCERES) in France.

Publications

 

ncbi

 

Paula Santibáñez

Paula Santibáñez

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 870 (Ext.:89870)

Biosketch

Paula graduated in Biology and in Biochemistry by University of Navarra in 2006 and obtained her PhD in Biochemistry from University of La Rioja with a thesis directed by Dr. José Antonio Oteo and Dr. Arantza Portillo in 2015.

In January 2007 she joined Dr. Oteo’s research group and was on internship in the Laboratory of Special Pathogens (attached to the Infectious Diseases Department of Hospital San Pedro and currently named Center of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases), specially based on the molecular diagnosis of tick-borne bacterial diseases. Since 2008 to 2012 her research was mainly focused on the study of trombiculid mites, financially supported by two research projects from La Rioja Government: “Trombiculidiasis: casos humanos, caninos y estudio del agente causal” (FOMENTA2007/14) and “Estudio del ciclo biológico de Neotrombicula spp. en La Rioja” (PREDOC 2008/29). In addition, she enjoyed a 5-month pre-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Pathology of the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, Texas, USA) and she received theoretical and hands-on training for working in BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratories, accredited by the National Biocontainment Training Center (USA). She also participated in other research projects: “Vigilancia medioambiental de mosquitos circulantes en La Rioja como potenciales vectores de infecciones en nuestra área” and “Investigación de la presencia del virus de la encefalitis transmitida por garrapatas (TBE) y del virus de la fiebre hemorrágica de Crimea-Congo (FHCC) en ixódidos de la Comunidad Autónoma de La Rioja” (PS09/02492), and she obtained a grant by La Rioja Government for the development of techniques in ecotoxicology in the Regional Laboratory of La Grajera.

From January 2013 to March 2017 she worked at the Molecular Diagnostic Unit of Fundación Rioja Salud. She took part in a European project of the 7th Frame Program titled “A New GEnetic LABoratory for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis” (ANGELab). Moreover, she worked in the molecular diagnosis of a wide range of genetic disorders.

Since April 2017 she works as a post-doctoral researcher at the Center of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases

Since April 2017 she works as a post-doctoral researcher at the Center of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases

Publications

 

ncbi

 

Cristina Cervera

Cristina Cervera

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 870 (Ext.:89870)

Biosketch

Cristina Cervera Acedo received her Bachelor´s degree in Pharmacy from the University Complutense of Madrid in 2004. She obtained the Specialty in Clinical Analysis at the San Pedro Hospital of Logroño in 2010. Then, she began to work in molecular biology in the Molecular Diagnostics Unit in Fundación Rioja Salud, where she was specialized in molecular genetics diagnosis and DNA sequencing technologies, and has experience carrying out national and European research projects funded by public and private agencies.

In 2011, she participated in a study financed by the Spanish Cancer Association based on the detection of aberrantly methylated DNA in the circulation of patients with colorectal cancer. In 2012, she was employed by Fundación Rioja Salud associated with a research project financed by the European Union (VII Framework Programme), based on the detection of free circulating fetal DNA into de bloodstream of pregnant women for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis. In 2016 she obtained a doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of Zaragoza with a thesis titled: Evaluation of mSEPT9 biomarker for early detection of Colorectal Cancer, directed by Dr. Elena Domínguez Garrido and Dr. Jorge Vicente Romero. She is a member of the Spanish Association of Pharmaceutical Analysts and member of the Spanish Society of Human Genetics. Moreover, she has published several articles related to cancer and rare diseases, and participated in several communications to national and international congresses.

She has recently incorporated to the Center for Rickettsioses and Arthropod borne diseases, attached to the Department of Infectious Diseases of the Hospital San Pedro-CIBIR. She participates, as a postdoctoral researcher, in a project funded by the Carlos III Health Institute program (PI15_02269EIN), focused on the study of the microbiome and virome of ticks and their application in the diagnostic of tick-borne diseases.

Publications

 

ncbi

 

Ana Mª Palomar

Ana Mª Palomar

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 877 (Ext.:89877)

Biosketch

Ana Mª Palomar graduated in Biology from the University of Oviedo. In 2009 she joined the Center of Rickettsiosis and Arthropod-Borne Diseases (CIBIR-Hospital San Pedro). In 2010 she was awarded a grant from “Fundación Rioja Salud” to obtain her Ph.D. degree with a project focused on the role of birds as dispersal of ticks and their microorganisms, under the supervision of Dr José Antonio Oteo and Dr Arantza Portillo. Under Dr Lesley Bell-Sakyi supervision, she has made 7-month intermittent short stays at the Tick Cell Biobank group in the Vector-borne Viral Disease Programme (The Pirbright Institute, UK) during 2014, 2015 (financially supported by SEIMC) and 2017.

Ana Mª Palomar has an extensive background in ticks and tick-borne diseases. Her research is focused on arthropods’ sampling methods, tick classification and detection, identification and characterization of microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) by molecular biology and sequencing techniques. Her research interests include other arthropods (i.e. fleas, lice) and their associated diseases, molecular diagnostics of arthropod-borne pathogens in human samples, the establishment of primary cultures of tick cell lines or the isolation of arthropod-borne microorganisms. Currently, she participates in a project that aims the study of the microbiome and virome of ticks using next generation sequencing technique. She has collaborated in national and international research projects focused on arthropod-borne diseases (FIS PI15/02269; FIS PI12/02579; RIICER; FIS PS09/02492; FOMENTA 2007/14; COST Action TD1303), and she is member of the Biological Alert Laboratory Network (RE-LAB). She collaborates as reviewer with different journals and she has been recently appointed as member of the Zubia journal editorial committee.

Ana’s scientific studies have led to the publication, as author or co-author, of 29 peer-reviewed publications, a book and three book chapters, as well as several communications to national and international congresses. The first detection in Spain and Morocco of the Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever virus, the characterization of new Rickettsia species (i.e. Candidatus Rickettsia vini), the identification for the first time in Spain of human (Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and Rickettsia sibirica sibirica) or animal (Anaplasma bovis) pathogens are some of her important scientific contributions.

Publications

 

ncbi

 

Ignacio Ruiz

Ignacio Ruiz

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +34 941 278 877

Biosketch

Ignacio Ruiz got the Veterinary Degree at the University of Zaragoza in 2006, a Bachelor’s Thesis in 2009 and a MSc in Public Health in 2012. His PhD Thesis research was focused on ecology and impact in Public Health of Simulium erythrocephalum in Spain and he obtained his doctorate in 2018. During his PhD stage, he enjoyed a 3-month-stay (25/01/2016-25/04/2016) at the University College Dublin (Ireland) under Dr. Barry McMahon’s supervision, and a 2-month-stay (30/10/2015-30/12/2015) at Instituto Politecnico Nacional in Mexico under Dr. Mario A. Rodriguez’s supervision. 

His training as veterinary entomologist has allowed him to participate in several projects and research works in the biomedical area. He collaborates with different national and international research groups in the surveillance, distribution and control of vectors. The most recent one is the Mosquito Alert project, a cooperative citizen science observatory to fight against the expansion of Invasive Aedes mosquito species like Aedes albopictus, Ae. aegypti or Ae. japonicus. As medical and veterinary entomology researcher, he studies different aspects of ecology and public health impact of vectors, such as mosquitoes and black flies and the diseases they transmit. He has launched the study of hematophagous Diptera in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja, where surveillance of the invasive tiger mosquito species (Ae. albopictus) is included. Currently, he is developing a research line based on the study of pathogens in the Simuliidae family and the screening of pathogens (arboviruses and haemosporidia) in the Culicidae family.

He is co-author of 18 papers included in the Web of Science Core Collection. In addition, he is co-author of 22 publications that are not indexed in ISI-JCR journals. Ignacio has participated in several national and international conferences presenting both 24 oral and 51 poster communications. He has participated in four research projects financed through competitive calls at regional and national levels. Currently he is participating in two research projects (regional and national level) and in the international project AIM-COST Action CA17108.

Dr. Ruiz have also participated as an assessor of projects, reviewer of manuscripts for several journals and trainer in medical entomology courses at national and international level. Furthermore, he have participated as supervisor of Degree and Master Students.

Publications

 

ncbi

 
© 2020 Rioja Salud - C/ Piqueras, 98 – 3ª Planta · 26006 · Logroño · La Rioja · Telf.: 941 278 855 · Fax: 941 278 887