PhD, The University of Queensland, 2009
BSc, The University of Queensland, 2002
The African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae and yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti are dangerous vectors for blood-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya and zika, because of an innate preference of these mosquito species to blood-feed on humans. Mosquitoes are largely thought to target humans using their keen sense of smell. Given this relationship, identifying the chemosensory cues and neural circuits that act in concert to guide these mosquito species toward humans, as well as the associated impact of pathogen infection on this process, may help to devise powerful strategies that halt pathogen transmission.
To gain insight into the neurobiology of vector-borne disease transmission, our research is currently centered around three specific aims:
1. Identifying mosquito receptors and active volatile odorants that drive mosquito attraction towards humans
2. Characterizing patterns of odor-evoked activity in the mosquito brain in response to the scent of infected and uninfected humans from disease endemic regions
3. Determining the influence of Plasmodium falciparum and dengue virus infection on mosquito olfactory perception and behavior
We employ integrative approaches including GC/MS, two-photon imaging and genome-editing technology to elucidate how host volatiles are perceived by the mosquito nervous system, and how this olfactory percept is altered by changes in internal physiological state during pathogen infection.
By studying how the mosquito nervous system detects and encodes human odor, and how pathogens themselves manipulate this process, our research aims to provide a global view of the odors, genes, and neural circuits that allow mosquitoes to find humans. We aim to develop innovative strategies which lure or repel mosquitoes, and potentially other anthropophilic disease vectors, away from humans to stop them transmitting vector-borne diseases.