Research Fellows Directory
LUISA DAMAZIO RONA PITALUGA
Dr LUISA DAMAZIO RONA PITALUGA
Imperial College London
My research area involves evolutionary and ecological science to better understand the transmission and control of malaria, a tropical disease. According to World Health Organization estimates, there were 214 million malaria cases and 438,000 deaths in 2015; 88% of the cases and 90% of deaths are in Africa. In Brazil, malaria has always been an important public health problem, with the Amazon region hosting 99% of the malaria cases. The estimated malaria cases in Brazilian Amazon region were around 300.000 in 2014/2015 (Ministry of Health, Brazil). There are also registered malaria cases outside the Amazon region, e.g. in the southern/southeastern regions of the Atlantic Forest.
Malaria parasites are ingested by mosquitoes when they bite an infected person. After about two weeks later, the parasites are transmitted to another person through a second mosquito bite. The first few hours in the mosquito are critical for parasite survival as mosquito immune reactions often eliminate the parasites. Understanding what makes some parasites resist these reactions can help us to design ways to stop disease spreading. I aim to study the evolution of some hundreds of mosquito and parasite molecules that are thought to play a role in parasite elimination or survival during these first few hours. I expect to identify patterns that will help me to figure out how mosquitoes and parasites interact, promoting disease transmission, and how these interactions may differ between mosquitoes and parasites in different geographical areas. The results from this study can guide other researchers to examine specific molecules with the aim to design ways to tackle the disease.