Molecular Biology of Ectoparasites

The research group Molecular Biology of Ectoparasites is mainly involved in the study of host-vector interactions, using the interaction between the hard tick Ixodes ricinus and its mammalian hosts as a model system.

Ticks are blood-feeding ectoparasites that infest a large number of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They are present almost everywhere in the world. The feeding process itself is often detrimental to the host. Furthermore, many ticks are vectors for viral, bacterial and protozoan pathogens for humans and livestock animals.

As in other blood-feeding arthropods, tick saliva is a complex mixture of factors (proteins, glycolipids, amines...) that are essential for the completion of the blood meal. Indeed, ticks have to fight against the defenses of their hosts (pain, inflammation, coagulation, immune response) in order to be able to feed properly. These molecules could serve as active principles of anti-tick vaccines. Besides, some of these salivary factors might be developed into medically useful substances (e. g. in the fields of inflammation, coagulation or the immune response).

The laboratory is therefore characterizing tick salivary proteins and analyzing their suitability as anti-tick vaccines and efficiency in therapies