Using next-generation sequencing to understand the diversity and dynamics of Anopheles populations

The partner studies that make up this community project are concerned with a range of questions regarding the Anopheles gambiae species complex, which comprises the major vectors of malaria in Africa. 

A keystone of malaria control is to prevent transmission by the Anopheles vector. Hopes of eventually eliminating malaria rely greatly on this, but the failure of previous efforts to eradicate malaria has taught us that it is not easily accomplished, particularly because of the ability of Anopheles populations to develop resistance to insecticides as their usage increases.

New technologies for large-scale sequencing provide unprecedented opportunities to overcome this problem by real-time monitoring of genome variation in Anopheles populations, and using this information to develop early warning systems for the emergence of insecticide resistance, and for other practical applications in vector control.

A very practical application is to understand the nature and scale of a mosquito breeding unit, and to describe rates and patterns of mosquito migration between different breeding units. Underlying this problem is the fact that human malaria is transmitted by approximately 50 different species of mosquitoes, some of which are capable of breeding with each other, and that each species has a complex population structure. Understanding genome diversity within and between Anopheles species is central to solving this problem.

Other practical applications include genome-wide association studies to determine the molecular causation of insecticide resistance and mosquito refractoriness to Plasmodium infection; and supporting efforts to develop novel transgenic methods of vector control, by conducting population genetic studies to understand the process of gene flow in Anopheles populations.

MalariaGEN supports partner studies by providing a central resource for high-throughput sequencing and informatics, and at the same time building a catalog of A. gambiae genome variation as a scientific resource for the malaria research community as a whole. 

Partner studies

  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK (Martin Donnelly, David Weetman, Craig Wilding)
  • Institute Pasteur, Paris, France (Ken Vernick)
  • Imperial College, London, UK (Austin Burt, Sam O’Loughlin, Mara Lawniczak, George Christophides, Fotis Kafatos)