Host: Laura Duvall
Title: Sex, blood, and parasites: Uncovering the secrets of malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes
Abstract: Extraordinary efforts have been made in the last two decades to control Plasmodium transmission by the Anopheles mosquito using long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS). The increased application of both interventions, however, has inevitably led to the emergence and spread of insecticide resistance in natural mosquito populations, threatening their effectiveness. Here we show how increasing knowledge of mosquito biology and mosquito-parasite interactions can contribute novel ideas and tools for malaria control. Specifically, we unveil a novel male steroid hormone that controls the female post-mating biology, with repercussions for female reproductive fitness during infection with Plasmodium falciparum parasites. Moreover, we show how parasites optimize their own transmission while minimizing reproductive costs to their Anopheles vectors, and that impairing the reproductive physiology of the mosquito vector affects the parasite in unexpected ways that could enhance malaria transmission. This led us to the idea of targeting the parasite directly within the mosquito, using the most effective mosquito control tools: LLINs and/or IRS. We show that when mosquitoes uptake antimalarial drugs delivered by multiple means, P. falciparum development is efficiently aborted. All together, these data unveil a complex interaction between P. falciparum parasites and Anopheles mosquitoes and demonstrate how this interplay can be effectively interrupted without affecting the mosquito vector, reducing the chance of mosquito resistance while blocking parasite transmission.