Sand flies are key vectors of parasitic protozoans of the genus Leishmania, some of which are causative agents of human leishmaniases. To fully understand a transmission cycle in a focus of leishmaniasis and possibly disrupt this cycle, it is of paramount importance to conclusively identify sand fly species present in the focus and assess their role in transmission. Species identification and taxonomy of sand flies is complicated by the fact that analysis of distinctive morphological characters requires expertise in assessment of minute and often obscured characters. This situation opens door for deployment of molecular methods to complement traditional morphology in integrative taxonomical approach. We use DNA sequencing of nuclear and mitochondrial markers including DNA barcoding as well as MALDI-TOF protein profiling which we pioneered for sand fly taxonomy.
- molecular taxonomy of sand flies in Europe and adjacent regions (Caucasus, Middle East, Maghreb) with respect to population variability and cryptic species
- mapping of sand fly distribution on Europe including the northern border (field surveys in the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary)
- characterization of molecular markers to assess cryptic species within species complexes of important subgenera Larroussius and Paraphlebotomus (Phlebotomus perfiliewi, Phlebotomus major, Phlebotomus sergenti).
- sand fly typing by DNA barcoding and MALDI-TOF protein profiling
- studies of feeding preferences (bloodmeals, sugar meals) of important leishmaniasis vectors by molecular techniques (RFLP, sequencing, peptide mapping)
- molecular factor affecting transmission of human cutaneous leishmaniasis in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco (project “LeiSHield-MATI - A multi-disciplinary international effort to identify clinical, molecular and social factors impacting cutaneous leishmaniasis