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Population biology and molecular genetics of vectorial capacity in Anopheles gambiae: targeting reproductive behaviour and immunity for transmission-refractory interventions
Framework programme:
Contract/Grant agreement number:
EC contribution:
2,300,00 €
36 months
Funding scheme:
Focused Research project
Starting date:
Project Web site:

Keywords: malaria, mosquito vector, reproduction behaviour, host-parasite interactions, immunity, population biology


Malaria is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium and is transmitted to humans by anopheline mosquitoes. The African mosquito species Anopheles gambiae s.s. is the major vector of this disease. Current strategies aimed at tackling malaria rely extensively on the control of vector populations in the field, chiefly through the use of insecticides and insecticide-impregnated bed nets. However, resistance in mosquitoes and lack of novel insecticidal compounds constitute major hurdles for insecticide-based control methods.

Aims and expected results

The project aims to expand knowledge of mosquito biology and of vector-parasite interactions, exploiting the opportunities provided by the genome information and technological developments for mosquito vectors recently made available. MalVecBlok is the first research consortium to integrate three crucial aspects of the biology of An. gambiae: reproduction, immunity and population biology, with the aim of ultimately providing novel concepts and targets for malaria control.

The scientific activities of this project will identify the factors and pathways regulating immunity against Plasmodium parasites and provide molecular insights into the reproductive processes essential for the mosquito's fertility and fecundity, the two crucial aspects of mosquito biology at the basis of development of transmission-blocking interventions. The knowledge gained will be instrumental to determining at the molecular level how modulation of immune factors affects reproductive success in vector populations, and how reproductive efforts influence the immune status of mosquitoes and parasite development. Polymorphisms of key molecules regulating reproduction and immunity will be characterised in the natural populations across sub-tropical Africa, and the key factors that shape local vector populations will be identified.

The main objectives will address:

  • the molecular bases of reproductive biology of the mosquito vector, and its effects on immunity and Plasmodium transmission;
  • the molecular mechanisms which determine the mosquito immune status and regulate Plasmodium sporogony and transmission, both in laboratory settings and in natural populations;
  • the role of genetic polymorphism in genes controlling reproduction and immunity on the structure of mosquito populations and malaria transmission in Africa.

In order to reach these objectives, the project will employ a number of concerted strategies in support of its three-year agenda. Special attention will be given to cutting-edge training opportunities and sharing of resources, by implementing interactive programmes for the training and exchange of personnel at all levels, and by rationalising and coordinating investment. The knowledge acquired will have a strong impact on European scientific competitiveness, and will address societal issues. Ultimately, MalVecBlok will provide an integrated view of mosquito immunity and reproduction (the latter is largely understudied in Anopheles) and analyse how these two physiological processes are linked and jointly affect mosquito biology and its interactions with the malaria parasite.

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