Endosymbionts for Vector Control

 Close-up of Anopheles mosquito

Some of world's most serious infectious disease are transmitted by mosquitoes. While we have treatments for many of these diseases, such as malaria, we do not have effective vaccines for most mosquito-borne pathogens and they continue to infect millions of people annually. Methods for controlling these diseases are increasingly focused on the vectors themselves - pesticides and bed nets to reduce mosquito numbers and limit their ability to transmit diseases to humans. A novel control strategy is narrowing the focus on the mosquitoes even further - to the parasites that infect them. Wolbachia are bacteria that naturally infect mosquitoes and can impact their ability to transmit diseases such as malaria. Professor Steve Sinkins in the Centre for Virus Research is working on how to disrupt mosquitoes' abilities to transmit infectious diseases by exploring genetic modifications to the Wolbachia that infect them.

In addition to large research programmes funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Professor Sinkins leads the ANTI-VeC Network, a Global Challenges Research Fund network that draw together individuals from a broad range of scientific disciplines engaged in developing and deploying genetic modification and heritable endosymbionts approaches to foster knowledge exchange, methodological and technological sharing, and stimulate innovative collaborative research projects that will lay the foundation for new approaches or more effective implementation of control strategies for vector-borne diseases. 

First published: 21 January 2021