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Malaria vector genomics fellows arrive at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Honorine Kaboré and Mahamadi Kientega will be completing a three-month placement with the Lawniczak group and Malaria Vector Genomic Surveillance teams.

News 6 Jun 2024

Honorine and Mahamadi are usually based at the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS) in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. Now, the two research fellows will spend the next three months at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK, training in various methods for sequencing and analysing malaria vector genomes.

Honorine, who is working towards her PhD in molecular biology and genetic engineering, is interested in the population genomics of the Anopheles gambiae complex and Anopheles funestus mosquitoes. This involves comparing large mosquito genome datasets to understand how mosquitoes evolve over time. Mahamadi is equally passionate about leveraging genomic tools in malaria vector research. His recent work delves into the genetic variations driving insecticide resistance and target site variations in Anopheles gambiae to support gene drive technologies.

In 2022, they collected malaria mosquito samples from various locations across Burkina Faso in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and shipped them to the Sanger Institute. The fellows are excited to sequence and analyse some of these samples with support from the Lawniczak group, who developed the ANOSPP panel.

Right now, we are learning to use the ANOSPP panel, including extracting DNA from mosquitoes, sequencing it, and getting the analysis pipeline ready to work. – Mahamadi

Setting up and running analysis pipelines on their own systems is a critical step in making their research more sustainable. Honorine elaborates, “We want to master data analysis pipelines on our computers so that even when we return home, we can continue to run analyses locally.” 

They are also excited to learn to use different sequencing technologies like portable long-read sequencers developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) and benchtop Illumina machines like the MiSeq. “ONT is very adaptable in places where you don’t have access to a huge sequencer, like in the field,” Mahamadi explains. 

Honorine, who has recently trained in the MiSeq sequencing system during her placement at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, adds, “The MiSeq platform is good for high-throughput sequencing to complement the ONT’s capabilities.”

Both fellows have completed the training course in data analysis for genomic surveillance of African malaria vectors delivered jointly by MalariaGEN and the Pan-African Mosquito Control Organisation (PAMCA). They are now part of a growing community of malaria scientists using genomic resources to better understand malaria and its vectors.

Analysing genome sequences is a complex task, and the fellows plan to enhance their skills during their upcoming rotation with the Malaria Vector Genomic Surveillance team at the Genomic Surveillance Unit. Reflecting on their journey, they emphasise the importance of data analysis in their work.

Data analysis is where everything comes together. It’s about making sense of the data we gather and using it to inform vector control strategies. – Honorine

This sentiment is echoed by Mahamadi, who adds that collaborating with various teams and institutions provides invaluable experience and motivation. “It’s useful for us to see how they’ve organised the lab and how they approach their work. The experiences are diverse, and it’s great to be part of the process at every stage.”

Read about Mahamadi research, which looks at how insecticide resistance has evolved over time in Burkina Faso.

We caught up with Honorine for World Malaria Day 2024 – learn about her work.