Our Focus

The current Zika and Dengue epidemics brought the problem of vector-borne viral infections to public attention. Control of vector populations is essential to prevent disease transmission because there are no specific drugs against arboviruses and vaccines are limited to few viral species. Success of vector control strategies requires an in-depth understanding of mosquito biology and genetics. Our goal is to understand the factors that make a mosquito a competent vector for arboviruses and to identify elements that could limit the effectiveness of current vector control tools, such as the emergence of insecticide resistance.

Specific Interests

Genetic components of mosquito vector competence

Mosquitoes of the Culicidae family include some of the most dangerous animals in the world because of their ability to vector pathogens, such as protozoan parasites and viruses, to humans. This ability is called “vector competence”. Not all mosquitoes have the same vector competence. There are differences among species, for instance Anophelinae mosquitoes are primary vectors of protozoan parasites, whereas Aedeine are main vectors of RNA viruses such as Dengue, Zika, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya viruses. There are also large differences in vector competence among geographic populations within a species. This variability is due to the fact that vector competence is a complex and evolving phenotype. It results from the interplay between pathogen and mosquito genetic factors and environmental factors, including microbiota. We study the main viral vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopcitus and we are interested in understanding the genetic elements that define their vector competence and how this factors are distributed in natural populations and interact with environmental variables. This information is essential to develop novel genetic-based vector control strategies and to predict arboviral risk.

We previously applied transcriptomics approaches to investigate the response of Ae. aegypti to Dengue infection and we have been involved in the annotation and analyses of the current Ae. albopictus genome assembly from the Foshan strain. During this genomics analyses, we identified a large number of sequences with similarities to non-retroviral RNA viruses of different species. Currently we receive support from the European Union (ERC-Co 682394) and the Human Science Frontier Program to understand the occurrence of this unexpected phenomenon of genome integrations from non-retroviral RNA viruses in Aedes mosquitoes and its biological significance.

Our main collaborators include:

Dr Anna-Bella Failloux, Pasteur Institut, France
Dr Helene Delatte, CIRAD, La Reunion, France
Dr Ronald van Rij, Radboud University Medical Center, the Netherlands
Dr Jayme Souza-Neto, São Paulo State University, Brasil

Insecticide Resistance

Insecticides are the primary tool to fight mosquito-borne disease at the moment. However, intensive use of insecticides for vector control, associated with their use in agricolture, impose selection pressure for emergence of resistance. We are interested in studying the mechanisms of resistance in both Anopheles gambiae, the main vector of malaria in Sub-saharan Africa, and Aedes albopictus, an arboviral vector. We work in close association with colleagues in developing countries and China to provide access to field samples.

Our main collaborators include:

Dr Yaw Afrane, University of Ghana
Dr Andrew Githeko, Kenya Medical Research Insitute, Kisumo Kenya
Dr Xiaoguang Chen, Southern Medical University Guangzhou, China