Novel systems to study vector-pathogen interactions in malaria

Marina Parres-Mercader, Alena Pance, Elena Gómez-Díaz

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Some parasitic diseases, such as malaria, require two hosts to complete their lifecycle: a human and an insect vector. Although most malaria research has focused on parasite development in the human host, the life cycle within the vector is critical for the propagation of the disease. The mosquito stage of the Plasmodium lifecycle represents a major demographic bottleneck, crucial for transmission blocking strategies. Furthermore, it is in the vector, where sexual recombination occurs generating “de novo” genetic diversity, which can favor the spread of drug resistance and hinder effective vaccine development. However, understanding of vector-parasite interactions is hampered by the lack of experimental systems that mimic the natural environment while allowing to control and standardize the complexity of the interactions. The breakthrough in stem cell technologies has provided new insights into human-pathogen interactions, but these advances have not been translated into insect models. Here, we review in vivo and in vitro systems that have been used so far to study malaria in the mosquito. We also highlight the relevance of single-cell technologies to progress understanding of these interactions with higher resolution and depth. Finally, we emphasize the necessity to develop robust and accessible ex vivo systems (tissues and organs) to enable investigation of the molecular mechanisms of parasite-vector interactions providing new targets for malaria control.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1146030
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Early online date26 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2023


  • tissue explant
  • membrane feeding assay (MFA)
  • organoids
  • Plasmodium
  • Anopheles
  • mosquito
  • Malaria
  • Humans
  • Animals
  • Mosquito Vectors
  • Technology
  • Culicidae
  • Environment


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