LSTM Professor Charles Wondji secures renewal of Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship

News article 2 Oct 2019

Cameroon based Professor Charles Wondji has had his Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship renewed for the next five years which will continue to support his work within LSTM’s Department of Vector Biology.

The grant formally titled: Molecular basis of the escalation of insecticide resistance in malaria vectors and its impact on malaria control, is worth over £2 million and will see research carried out both within LSTM and CRID in Cameroon.

Malaria prevention relies extensively on mosquito control using insecticides. However, insecticide resistance in major transmitting-mosquitoes threatens malaria control in Africa. Professor Wondji explained: “Recent evidence worryingly shows that resistance is getting worse, which could lead to extensive loss of protection from most bed nets. It is of urgent importance to understand how mosquitoes become super-resistant to help prevent such operationally threatening resistance spreading Africa-wide.”

As with the original award, Professor Wondji and his team will use the power of deep genome sequencing coupled to extensive functional analyses and field testing, to fill this gap in knowledge by thoroughly deciphering the genetic and molecular drivers of super-resistance to insecticides in the mosquito An. funestus across Africa. The possibility that super-resistance is caused by mosquitoes producing higher amounts of enzymes able to breakdown insecticides faster and/or more efficiently will be investigated and DNA markers associated with this trait identified. Evidence that mosquitoes are hardening their body armour, or cuticle, to reduce insecticide uptake will be investigated and tools designed to track such super-resistance.

Furthermore, through extensive field studies in Cameroon in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases (CRID), this project will establish the extent to which this super-resistance is reducing the efficacy of insecticide-treated nets and thereby contributing to the increase in malaria cases being reported in Africa.

Professor Wondji continued: “The crucial knowledge and tools that this project will generate will help control programs in Africato design rational, evidence-based resistance management strategies against this major malaria vector.”