In an era of increasing globalisation, urbanisation, and worsening climate change, the overall geographical range of transmission-competent mosquito vectors is expanding. Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are gradually emerging in previously unaffected areas, and re-emerging in areas where they had once previously subsided. Consequentially, there is increasing need placed upon the use of efficacious, long-lived vaccines to offset increasing transmission and alleviate the global burden of mosquito-borne infectious diseases. To achieve this, a broader understanding of the complex mechanisms underlying susceptibility and immunity to malaria and dengue fever is of critical importance.
During her PhD, Steph applied transcriptional analysis and systems immunology approaches to identify transcriptional features of susceptibility and immunity to dengue fever, as well as Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) and Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax) malaria. By combining RNA sequencing with high dimensional mass cytometry and clinical data, Steph revealed features of immunosuppression in asymptomatic P. falciparum malaria, monocyte dysfunction in P. vivax malaria, and impaired effector T cell memory responses as a feature of progression to severe dengue hemorrhagic fever. These findings have critical implications for the deployment and efficacy of malaria vaccines, and for the development of diagnostic tools to predict disease outcomes for dengue patients at point-of-care.