We study mosquitoes as the insect vectors of multiple durable and widespread disease transmission systems, particularly malaria and arboviruses. Some of these pathogens are becoming newly established in Europe. The focus of the GGIV Unit is the host-pathogen interactions during infection of the mosquito, particularly the interplay between pathogenesis and mosquito host immunity. We attempt to bridge the field and laboratory by screening natural vector populations for genetic mechanisms that can be extracted to the laboratory for functional genomic, genetic and cellular dissection. Our main orientation is to study the basic biology of genetically-controlled immune mechanisms in the mosquito. At the same time, existing vector control tools are failing in many places as mosquitoes evolve around them, and a new generation of disease control approaches is necessary, which will probably only come from new basic biological insights.
Using new genomic research tools, it is possible to directly or indirectly query natural populations of mosquitoes in order to identify mechanisms of vector resistance and immunity against malaria parasites. One of the goals of GGIV research is to understand how resistant mosquitoes kill the malaria parasite. This work is deeply implanted in the field in Africa. We made important discoveries about the population structure of the most important African malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae. We used population-based genetic association and formal genetic linkage mapping to identify multiple genomic loci that significantly influence development of the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in A. gambiae. We used functional genomics and cell biology to confirm candidate genes and dissect underlying mechanisms, and we carried out comparative studies on mosquito immunity with other pathogens such as fungi, arboviruses and rodent malaria.