I am interested in how malaria parasites could evolve in response to changing mosquito ecology thanks to vector control tools such as bed-nets and insecticide spraying.
Anopheles mosquitoes are really good at transmitting malaria parasites. But us humans, we’re not big fans of malaria so we developed some great tools, like bed-nets and insecticides, to stop malaria getting such an easy ride. These tools have been instrumental in the remarkable decline in global malaria burden that we’ve seen over the last two decades. However, these tools are leading to changes in mosquito ecology that mean life for malaria parasites inside the mosquito is changing. I’m trying to find out how the parasite might respond to this new environment, and what affect this could have on disease transmission.
By using a cross-disciplinary approach that lies at the intersection of parasitology, vector biology, and evolutionary ecology I ask if parasite evolutionary responses to this new environment could be constrained or facilitated, by investigating the genetic variation and plasticity underpinning various parasite transmission phenotypes. Uncovering its evolutionary potential will help us to anticipate the parasite’s next move and stay one step ahead so we can deploy vector control strategies in the most effective way, as well as inform how to develop new tools, to continue towards malaria elimination.