Host-parasite interactions


Plasmodium sp. (malaria), Wuchereria bancrofti (lymphatic filariasis), dengue fever virus, and other mosquito-borne pathogens undergo complex developmental, migrational and/or propagative processes inside two obligate hosts: humans (or other compatible animals) and mosquitoes.  For all of these pathogens, mosquitoes become infected by ingesting an infectious blood meal.  For mosquitoes to transmit the infection, all of these pathogens must first enter the hemocoel and migrate to the salivary glands or mouthparts (depending on the pathogen).  Hence, uncovering mechanisms and genes that inhibit pathogen viability in the hemocoel could lead to the development of novel transmission control strategies.

We have previously shown that the process of Plasmodium sporozoite migration through the hemocoel is highly inefficient.  Furthermore, we have shown that during their migration, Plasmodium sporozoites venture to all regions of the hemocoel.  Now, using Plasmodium parasites that express a fluorescent marker we are investigating the mechanisms of sporozoite migration in the hemocoel and the immune mechanisms used by mosquitoes to reduce infection intensities.  In addition, we are currently investigating the process of salivary gland invasion, focusing on the molecular interactions between Plasmodium sporozoites and salivary gland surface proteins.


Biology of parasites in the mosquito hemocoel

Mosquitoes are obligate vectors of deadly and debilitating pathogens.  Malaria alone kills 1-3 million people each year.  Lymphatic filariasis incapacitates approximately 120 million people worldwide.

In 2007, our research into the biology of Plasmodium (malaria) parasites in the mosquito hemocoel was highlighted in the cover of the International Journal for Parasitology.

Plasmodium parasites undergo complex developmental, propagative and migrational processes inside two obligate hosts: humans and mosquitoes.