My name is Justine Rougé and I obtained my Master in parasitology on June 2016 at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie (Paris, France).

Learn more about Justine in her interview: Five Minutes with JUSTINE ROUGÉ

My project:

In October 2016 I Met with Dr Francesco Baldini, a world leader in vector biology working at the University of Glasgow (UK). Giving our mutual research interests in fighting malaria we decided to support my research career through a PhD programme. He is now my mentor, a real scientific and human model for me, and I hope to keep collaborating with him.

I want to understand what factors influence the transmission of malaria by mosquitoes to find new vector control strategies.

What is malaria?

Malaria is the most important human parasitic disease. In 2015, it affected in about 214 million individuals and was responsible for 438 000 deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to support a disproportionate share of the global burden of malaria with 89% of cases and 91% of deaths, including a majority of children under five years old (WHO, 2015). On a different scale, malaria can impact travellers who are non-immune subjects but also livestock, and particularly birds, causing important economic damages (Ito and Gotanda 2004).

The disease is caused by Plasmodium parasites invading red blood cells. This parasite is transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito (Anopheles genus) during a blood meal (Trampuz et al. 2003).

P. falciparum (Welch, 1897) is the most widespread species infecting humans throughout the world. It is the only species that may give rise to cerebral malaria, and it is responsible for nearly all malaria-associated deaths. The most effective way to prevent malaria is through vector control, mainly using insecticide-impregnated bed-nets. These bed-nets protect people sleeping under them, killing the mosquitoes that come into contact.

Nevertheless, the large use of insecticides over many years has selected for insecticide resistant (IR) mosquitoes, which no longer die from chemical exposure. We urgently need novel control tools to target IR mosquitoes.

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Wolbachia, a promising biocontrol tool:

Since about 2011, the use of the bacteria named Wolbachia is showing promising results to use them as biocontrol tool against mosquitoes.

Until 2014, Wolbachia was known to be present naturally in a lot of arthropod but not in mosquito populations transmitting dengue (Aedes aegypti) and malaria (Anopheles. spp).The artificial infection of mosquitoes with this bacterium reduces their capacity to transmit the disease by limiting the infection of mosquitoes with viruses such as dengue (Frentiu et al. 2014; Hoffmann et al; 2014; Ye et al. 2015) and other pathogens like malaria parasites (Bian et al. 2013; Hughes et al. 2011; Kambris et al. 2010).

Currently, field trials involving the release of Wolbachia infected dengue mosquitoes are ongoing in areas where dengue is endemic (World mosquito program:

While promising for dengue control, the use of Wolbachia to control malaria is more complex. Indeed, since 2014, we know that Wolbachia can naturally infect malaria mosquitoes populations (Baldini et al. 2014) and may reduce the parasitic development and so, could reduce the human malaria prevalence (Shaw et al. 2016).

Understanding these natural infections is key to develop new Wolbachia based tool to control malaria.

Through my PhD, I aim to understand how natural Wolbachia infections influence the ability of mosquitoes to transmit malaria.

To do so, I will use a combination of laboratory-based experiments and field studies, including both mosquito and other vectors of malaria as model systems such as blackflies (Simulium. sp), one of avian malaria vectors transmitting Leucocytozoon parasite (Murdock et al. 2015) to birds.

Blackflies, a potentially good alternative model to understand human malaria:

The discovery of Wolbachia natural infections in onchocerciasis vector, the black fly Simulium. squamosum, in Ghana (Crainey, Wilson & Post 2010) suggests the potential existence of other Wolbachia infections in other Simulium species that are vectors of other infectious diseases, particularly black flies transmitting malaria to birds in the northern hemisphere.

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Studying avian malaria vectors has considerable advantages compared to the investigations of mosquitoes and Plasmodium. Indeed it allows to gain insights into the logistically and ethically less tractable vectors of human malaria, and therefore, to better understand the transmission potential of the vectors and how we can interfere with them.

During my future PhD, I consider to study :- Wolbachia influence on vector longevity and fecundity (fitness)- ecological drivers of Wolbachia-parasites interactions in vectors.- Wolbachia effects on the malaria prevalence invertebrate hosts.

To fund my PhD, we need about 102 000€/90 706£

The money will help me to:- cover my expenses of the lab work- cover my expenses of field missions- participate in different conferences and to present my work- cover publishing expenses in scientific journals to expose my work- live with a monthly salary

Me using a microscope for lab work / Francesco in field mission in Africa to collect mosquitoes

This PhD project will mark the start of my career in medical entomology and would support future control strategies in order to fight malaria.

Have I convinced you?



Malaria is the most important human parasitic disease.

It affects more than 200 million individuals per year and is responsible for more than 430 000 deaths, whose a majority of children, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa (WHO, 2015).

On a different scales, malaria can impact travellers, but also the livestock and particularly birds, potentially causing economic damages (Ito and Gotanda 2004).

Currently, the only way to prevent malaria is through vector control. Nevertheless, because of insecticide resistance (IR) mosquitoes, we need novel control tools to target them.For that, Wolbachia seems to be a promising biocontrol tool.

It’s the time to help us to reverse this trend with innovative control.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Learn more about Justine in her interview: Five Minutes with JUSTINE ROUGÉ

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