Grants awarded

Novel Wolbachia strains in malaria vectors and their role in malaria disease control

Grantholder:

Dr Thomas Walker

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

United Kingdom

Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes in the Anopheles (An.) genera. Resident bacterial species compromise a part of the mosquito microbiome and can influence the development of Plasmodium malaria parasites. Wolbachia is an endosymbiotic bacterium that resides in more than 40% of insect species but was thought to be absent from Anopheles species. Recent studies have provided evidence for infections in wild An. Gambiae, which are major malaria vectors in Sub-Saharan Africa, and I have discovered two novel resident strains in An. moucheti and another Anopheles species 'A'.

I will determine the prevalence of strains in wild mosquito populations and if they have inhibitory effects on the transmission of malaria parasites. Our preliminary studies have revealed these novel Wolbachia strains are phylogenetically diverse and are high density infections that dominate the microbiome, which suggests they are ideal candidate strains for biocontrol strategies using transinfection of uninfected species or those containing low-density strains.

My findings may help the development of biocontrol strategies to prevent the spread of malaria.