Texas Tech University

Maria Onyango

Maria OnyangoMy name is Maria Onyango, obtained my earlier formal training in Kenya, before moving to Australia to pursue my doctoral studies. After my doctoral studies, I moved to the United States where I pursued my first post-doctoral training at Yale School of Public Health, focusing my interest in understanding how gut microbes of tsetse fly, vector of pathogen that causes sleeping sickness could interact with the ecology and tsetse fly to modulate infection by trypanosome, causative agent of sleeping sickness. I moved to Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health for my second postdoctoral training. During this time, I studied how mosquito-borne viruses interacted with the mosquito midgut microbes under increased temperature to impact transmission. The goal of my research was to develop innovative control mechanisms both for the vector and pathogens they transmit. 

We identified a midgut microbe with a broad-spectrum antiviral activity against Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya. In the future, I aim to develop a transgenic mosquito delivering effector molecules cross-protecting mosquitoes against Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue. Further, I hope to define the ecotype- genotype of Aedes mosquitoes in Africa, and the impact of this relationship in pathogen transmission and virus fitness as well as spillover events from the jungle to urban cycles. Lastly, using animal models, I aim to delineate the impact of mosquito saliva microbes on initial events, progression and severity of disease in vertebrate hosts. 

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