Zika Cataloguing Project: first bite

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Professor Alexander John Haddow was a medical entomologist and researcher in the field of insect-borne diseases. His papers include 25 years’ worth of methodical data collection and analysis of mosquito biting behaviour, whilst working with the East African Virus Research Institute in Uganda. The institute was established in 1936 in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, and their main focus was to research the Yellow Fever Virus. However, their work led to the isolation of previously unknown viruses such as Bunyamwera, O’nyong-nyong and Chikungunya. This was partly due to Haddow’s pioneering of the 24 hour mosquito catch record. The catch record meticulously records environmental conditions, catch methods and times mosquitos were caught. This methodical data collection and analysis lead to the first discovery and description of the now infamous Zika Virus.

The Wellcome Trust has recognised the importance of the papers and data held within, and they are funding a cataloguing project which aims to enhance the collection’s arrangement and make the descriptions accessible via the Archives Hub. Preserving the collection’s longevity is critical and we are working with preservation staff to ensure all records are repackaged. The project started on 14th March 2017, and within the first month we have completed a new catalogue arrangement and structure. We are adapting the exceptionally detailed notes made by University of Glasgow Immunology PhD student, Eleanor Tiplady, to describe and give context behind the mosquito catch records. We have also drafted enhanced descriptions of the East African Virus Research Institute’s Annual Reports.

Accruals to the collection from the Hunterian Museum have been listed and added, including: six pocket sized volumes, which contain over 200 negatives from Haddow’s time in Uganda; 46 black and white photographic prints made from the negatives; and Hunterian Museum correspondence with Haddow that captures Haddow’s energy and determination. Shortly before he died he wrote from his hospital bed in November 1978 and arranged for Hunterian staff to visit to sort through his papers (ACCN 4064/10/11).

On 24th March we exhibited the first record of the Zika Virus in a mosquito catch record to the Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Workshop. Peter Morphew, the project cataloguer commented:

I was engaged by students asking me a variety of questions about related viruses and research, with names I can’t begin to spell or pronounce.

As recently as March new cases of Yellow Fever have been reported in Rio, and the Zika Virus continues to make international headlines. It is not an exaggeration to state how important Haddow’s research was and that its significance is still relevant today. Whilst we can never be sure in what shape the next outbreak will take place, Haddow’s research will continue to be critical in supporting virus research and how science reacts to outbreaks.


Categories: Archives and Special Collections

4 replies


  1. Zika Cataloguing Project: second wind – University of Glasgow Library
  2. Whatever happened to the Zika virus?
  3. Whatever happened to the Zika virus? | Wikipedia Editors
  4. Whatever happened to the Zika virus? – ADC Voice

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