The influence of the microbiome on mosquito behaviour

There is accumulating evidence from diverse systems that microbes which reside in the gut can influence the behaviour of their host. A variety of events during mosquito hostseeking and bloodfeeding may be influenced by the pathogens they transmit, but little is known of the microbiome’s role in key behaviours during host selection and transmission. 

Recently we demonstrated that gut bacteria can alter the propensity of mosquitoes to blood feed, demonstrating that bacterial microbes can have direct effects on behavioural traits that are important for vectorial capacity. Here we will investigate further the role of the microbiome on feeding and on diverse mosquito traits relevant to pathogen transmission. We will employ several methods to perturb the microbiota of mosquitoes including techniques newly developed in the Hughes lab, to perform complete microbiome transplantations between mosquito cohorts, creating mosquitoes with simple and complex microbiomes. These lines will then be characterised using LSTM’s unique state-of-the-art video assays and procedures tests for quantification of mosquito behaviours fundamental to pathogen transmission and its prevention, such as host detection, selection and bloodfeeding, resting and flight, and responses to insecticides. The data generated by the 2D and 3D video recordings, particularly the complex spatio-temporal activity maps of multiple mosquitoes responding to human hosts, and microbiome datasets will be analysed by  mathematical trajectories analyses, and/or machine learning and artificial intelligence methods. This highly contemporary project will expand our understanding of the influence of microbes on vector behaviour and epidemiology of vector-borne diseases, and open novel avenues to explore for bespoke vector control strategies, by uniting two disparate lines of research, each of which already has considerable proven potential to generate highly appropriate and effective outputs.

Where does the project lie on the Translational Pathway?

T1 (Basic Research) + T3 (Evidence into Practice)

Expected Outputs

Identification of mosquito behaviours subject to influence by the microbiome and understanding the nature of both will contribute to the greater microbiome field, with potential for exploitation in related fields (eg. non-vector pest organisms and beneficial insects), in addition to more immediate translation outputs in vector control. We expect the work will result in several highly impactful/influential publications and a platform/foundation for future projects and proposals to exploit this new knowledge into novel vector control strategies.

Training Opportunities

  • Courses on microbiome (16S rRNA) data analysis and using R to examining microbial ecology data.
  • Vector biology and training to work with cl3 pathogens.
  • Workshops on machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • Point pattern and spatiotemporal analyses.

The project also includes the possibility of working with Labskin to learn how to develop skin explant models. Skin explants will be used for mosquito experi

Skills Required

A general understanding of vector biology and behaviour, interest in statistics and coding, and an insatiable curiosity and desire to learn.

Key Publications associated with this project

Kozlova EV, Hegde S, Roundy CM, Golovko G, Saldaña MA, Hart CE, Anderson ER, Hornett EA, Khanipov K, Popov VL, Pimenova M, Zhou Y, Fovanov Y, Weaver SC, Routh AL, Heinz E, Hughes GL (2020) Microbial interactions in the mosquito gut determine Serratia colonization and blood feeding propensity. ISME Journal. doi: 10.1038/s41396-020-00763-3

Hegde S, Khanipov K, Albayrak L, Pimenova M, Saldaña MA Rojas MA, Hornett EA, Motl CM, Fredregill CL, Dennett JA, Debboun M, Fofanov Y, Hughes GL (2018) Microbial co-occurrence networks and microbiome community structure from lab-reared and field-collected mosquito vectors Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, and Culex quinquefasciatus. Frontiers in Microbiology. 9:2160.

Saldaña MA, Hegde S, Hughes GL. (2017) Microbial control of arthropod-borne disease. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 112(2): 81-93.

Murray GPD, Lissenden N, Jones J,  V Voloshin, KH Toé, E Sherrard-Smith, GM Foster, TS Churcher, JEA Parker, CE Towers, WM Guelbeogo, Sagnon N’Falé, H. Ranson, D. Towers, P. J. McCall (2020) Barrier bednets target malaria vectors and expand the range of usable insecticides. Nature Microbiol.5(1):40-47. doi:10.1038/s41564-019-0607-2

Parker JEA, Angarita-Jaimes N, Abe M, Towers CE, Towers, D & McCall, PJ. (2015) Infrared video tracking of Anopheles gambiae at insecticide-treated bed nets reveals rapid decisive impact after brief localised net contact. Scientific Reports, 5, 13392. Doi: 10.1038/srep13392.

Deadline: Thursday 11th February 2021; 12:00 noon GMT

Further details on the MRC/DTP and CASE programmes and application guidance and process can be found here