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Drosophila melanogaster as a Versatile Model for Studying Medically Important Insect Vector-Borne Parasites
, Talha Bin Emran,

In the past decades, insect vector-borne parasitic diseases (VBDs), such as malaria, leishmaniasis, and lymphatic filariasis, have caused a devastating health problem, threatening for over 250 million lives worldwide (Wilson et al., 2020). While the causative parasites of VBDs together with their native insect vectors have been largely documented, much remains unknown. Global efforts are still needed to fully elucidate the parasites’ genes that are playing parts in the infectivity and mechanisms responsible in the modulation of host antiparasitic immune responses. In addition, characterization of important VBDs hallmarks and factors responsible in the vector and host susceptibility to parasitic transmission and infection remains underexplored. Once revealed, such information shall provide a vital role in the improvement of preventive actions to control the spread of VBDs and pharmacotherapeutic strategies to limit the disease burden.

Several insects such as mosquitoes, flies (sand flies, black flies, and tsetse flies), and triatomine bugs, have all been implicated in the transmission of parasites to human (Wilson et al., 2020). While much has been done in the identification of insect(s) suitable for the parasites’ life cycle prior to infection in the human, it remains challenging to carry out experimental investigations in the native insect vectors (Schneider, 2000; Zolfaghari Emameh et al., 2015). Complexities in the vector rearing and the lack of genetic toolbox available for carrying out experimental procedures in the native vectors are two of the most encountered obstacles for anyone working in this field (Schneider, 2000; Zolfaghari Emameh et al., 2015). To address this issue, the use of insect model such as fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to study the parasitic biology and other important knowledge related to the transmission and vector-parasite interaction can be seen as one of the alternative endeavors. In this opinion paper, we would like to propose the use of D. melanogaster to study the biology, immunology, and pathogenic characteristics of human parasites, and to some extent other vertebrate parasites, to reflect the situation occurred either during parasites’ lifecycle in the vector or during their infectious phase in their definitive vertebrate host. However, it is important to note that the results obtained from the Drosophila works shall be interpreted with caution once the results are translated into either the parasites’ native vectors or their vertebrate host.

Journal or Conference Name
Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Publication Year