Student Awarded

Mohamed Daoudi

Mohamed Daoudi

Country: Morocco

Project Title: Prevalence and role of phlebovirus infection in natural population of sandflies in Morocco and its potential role in leishmania infection

Institution: Cadi Ayyad University, Semlalia Faculty of Science Marrakech

Morocco is one of the countries in the world most affected by leishmaniasis with a significant geographical spread and new outbreaks (Bennis et al. 2017). The change in the epidemiological trends of leishmaniasis was noted in Morocco with the spread of L. tropica and L. infantum to areas previously declared as free, but which are now the geographical distribution areas of the three Leishmania species (L. major, L. tropica, L. infantum) (Hakkour et al. 2016; Hmamouch et al. 2017). From an epidemiological point of view, only the vector role of five species (out of the 22 species of sand flies recorded in Morocco) was demonstrated in Morocco (Rioux et al. 1996; Pratlang et al. 2001; Guerssous et al. 1997; Es-Sat et al. 2014). Moroccan population of sandflies are not only vectors of protozoa, but also viruses. Es-Sat at al. recently identified the Toscana virus (Es-Sate et al 2016) and its circulation in our country, posing a potential risk of emergence of meningitis and seasonal encephalitis. Leishmania parasites and Phleboviruses can be injected together by sand fly in the mammalian host. It has been shown in a mouse model that this results in increased parasite load and lesion ( Rossi et al. 2017). Interestingly, the presence of Narna-like virus 1- a virus infecting Leptomonas seymouri (protozoan parasites also transmitted by sand flies) – has recently been reported in L. donovani isolates from India, underscoring the existence of triple co-infection and suggesting its involvement in the development of PKDL (Rossi et al., 2017). Our study aims to identify, by molecular methods, the Leishmania species and phleboviruses that are present in the sandflies collected in Morocco. This will allow us, in the next step, to test the impact of co-infection of murine macrophages with both phleboviruses and leishmania parasites. In the final step, we will infect mice with both the phleboviruses and leishmania parasites, and follow the lesion development as well as the immune response. which will give us the opportunity to know the role of phleboviruses in leishmania infection.

Report Back – Skills Gained

Visit to Dr Olivier’s lab, McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre

  • Detection of potential co-infections with leishmania species and phlebovirus in Moroccan population of sandflies by qPCR.
  • Testing Moroccan population of sandflies by proteomic/LC-MS/MS in order to screen all potential pathogens proteins.
  • Infection of mice with phlebovirus and leishmania parasites, and follow the lesion development as well as the immune response.
  • Attending seminars

African Supervisor

Ali Boumezzough

Ali Boumezzough

African Host Country: Morocco

Institution: Cadi Ayyad university, Faculty of Science Semlalia

Laboratory: Ecology and Environment Laboratory (L2E)

Research activities in Ecology and environment Laboratory (L2E) is mainly focused on Taxonomy, Ecology and Epidemiology of parasitic disease vectors in terrestrial and aquatic environments. The research program in L2E has significantly contributed in the understanding of eco-epidemiology of leishmaniases in Morocco. The research group on sandflies has been staging entomological investigations into leishmaniases for more than 18 years in the North and South of Morocco. The team also works on reservoirs, in particular HIV/ Leishmania spp. co-infection. Legacies from my research are 10 PhD degree thesis completed and more than 40 original articles.

In addition, L2E is one of the competent laboratories in Cadi Ayyad University (UCA), which is recognized internationally for the quality of its scientific research. Its 1470 teacher-researchers, supported by more than 820 administrative staff and technicians, are at the origin of more than 500 high-quality publications. The quality of the scientific output, together with the close collaboration between the 146 research structures of the UCA and more than 580 research organizations around the world, has allowed (UCA) to be ranked in the TOP 400 of the University 2014. This result was confirmed in several subsequent rankings.

International Supervisor

Martin Olivier

Martin Olivier

International Host Country: Canada

Institution: McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre

Laboratory: Laboratory of Host-Parasite Interaction

Website: N/A

The research program in Dr. Olivier’s lab has significantly contributed in the understanding of immunopathogenesis of Leishmania. Having published over 160 original papers; we have shown that host PTPs are exploited by Leishmania to shutdown MØ signalling/function, and used PTP inhibitors to re-activate immunity in Leishmania-infected mice. We discovered that Leishmania Zn-metalloprotease GP63 activates MØ PTPs, establishing this parasite protease as a critical virulence factor, and found that per se Leishmania-released GP63-enriched Exo can modulate host MØ. Lastly, we reported a seminal finding that Leishmania Exo are released in sand fly gut and co-egested with Leishmania during transmission. Legacies from my research are 66 undergraduates, 37 grad students and 16 postdoc fellows.

The lab is located in a brand new state-of-the-art facility at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre having 25 different academic/clinical departments, enhancing the impact of our translational research programs. My lab is associated with the Infectious Diseases and Immunology in Global Health program; a global health initiative encompassing 18 wet lab groups lead by 22 fundamental and/or clinician scientists dedicated to translational research. Our training environment consists of open lab design facilitating interactions within and between laboratories. In the wet lab area all standard equipment for cellular/molecular biology and immunology experiments is available together with newly equipped large tissue culture facilities. It is equipped with facilities for molecular pathology, biochemistry, molecular/cellular immunology and pathogens biology. As well as for immunophenotyping, imaging, functional genomics, proteomic/LC-MS/MS, lipidomics, metabolomics, transgenic mouse technology platforms and BSL2/BSL3 animal facilities.