About Our Lab

In 2014 Dr. Jeremy Herren at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya founded the SymbioVector Lab. 

Our lab name is more than a fancy scientific-sounding name, it’s literally what we do! SymbioVector is the combination of the two things that we study: endosymbiosis (the study of organisms living inside of other organisms), and vector-borne diseases. Specifically, we are interested in endosymbionts that live within the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae.

We started out studying spiroplasma, an endosymbiont that lives in the gut of many insects, but is especially well studied in fruit flies. We decided to see if it had a role in the body of the mosquito, however, no matter how many mosquitoes we extracted and sequenced the DNA of, we couldn’t really find much of it! What we did start seeing a pattern of, however, was a fungus. 

The fungus which we found ended up being a new species in the genus Microsporidia, an ancient lineage considered by many to be older than the kingdom Fungi itself. We decided that if this fungus was in over 5% of all the insects we were looking at, it probably is important–so we looked closer at it.

Microsporidia MB, the name of our newly discovered specie, was more than just common. Our fungi showed the amazing capability to block the uptake of the malaria parasite into the mosquito.

Our current research focuses on HOW and WHY; we want to know how the microsporidia are transmitted from generation to generation and also why it blocks malaria. Our team is working across four countries to try to solve this question, and hopefully, in the coming months, we will be able to find out how to fight this disease.  

Meet The Team!

Dr. Jeremy Herren​

Research Leader

Dr. Jeremy Herren is our principal scientist, and the one who established our lab focusing on endosymbiont research. He has led us in our discovery of a microsporidian that has malaria transmission-blocking capacities.

Godfrey Nattoh

PhD Student

Nattoh's research goal is to bioprospect eukaryotic symbionts (mycobiomes) that stably associate with Anopheles sp and elucidate their association with plasmodium. He is currently registered for a PhD at Pan African University, Institute for Basic Sciences Technology & Innovation (PAUSTI, Kenya) and is supported by scholarship from PAU.

Tracey Maina

Intern

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Edward Makhulu

Lab Tech

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Our Alumni!

Evan Teal

Fulbright Fellow

Evan is a visiting Fulbright Fellow from the US who studied microsporidia transmission and mechanism of malaria prevention through the microbe. Hes currently studying at Tulane focusing on other neglected tropical diseases

Enock Mararo

PhD Student Glasgow

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Lily Mbaisi

PHD Student Pretoria

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