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[AVX Seminar] Malaria: perspectives from the mosquito

Henrique Silveira

When 16 Apr, 2020 from
11:00 am to 12:00 pm
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Title: Malaria: perspectives from the mosquito

Speaker: Henrique Silveira

Affiliation: Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical

Abstract: Malaria is the Vector Borne Disease with higher mortality worldwide. Despite the vast improvements on global malaria indicators, the onset of (pre-)elimination brings new challenges. The control of malaria transmission will be a determinant factor for malaria elimination, and our group aims to contribute to this global effort. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites and is transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria parasites must go through complex developmental changes within the mosquito before transmission to humans. The parasite triggers a self-directed response while interfering with mosquito behaviour and physiology. Current knowledge recognizes that the mosquito's response to the parasite is clearly important in the progression of the parasite in the mosquito. Even so, natural immunity is not enough to completely suppress infection. However, if we could boost the mosquito's immunity to levels of Plasmodium infection below the transmission threshold, it would represent an innovative and efficient way to control malaria. We explored the impacts of boosting mosquito response showing that Anopheles gambiae mosquito immunity can be stimulated, leading to significant reductions of Plasmodium infection. The translation of these and other findings largely depend on methodologies such as insectary and semi-field assays or the release into the wild of genetically modified mosquitoes all of which require mass production of mosquitoes. However, breeding mosquitoes in captivity requires a constant blood supply since mosquitoes need a blood meal for egg production and development. This fact prevents large-scale production of mosquitoes due to ethical restrictions and financial limitations. So far it has been impossible to rear malaria mosquitoes without blood! To overcome this limitation we have formulated an artificial meal for Anopheles mosquitoes that shows similar results to the blood meal. Producing Anopheles without blood will facilitate immensely vector research and the implementation of control tools that depend on large number of mosquitoes.

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