Dr. Maureen Laroche is a Medical Entomologist from Martinique, French Caribbean. As a trained bacteriologist, she’s mostly interested in bacterial pathogens transmitted by arthropods and in developing new tools for vector surveillance. For the past 6 years, she has been developing MALDI-TOF MS profiling approaches to identify arthropods, their blood meals, their age but also the pathogens they carry.
Arthropods encompass more than a million species. A very small fraction is able to transmit pathogenic agents from one vertebrate host to another, including humans, they are called vectors. Vector transmission is an active process which implies specific interactions between the vector and the pathogen; therefore, all microorganisms are specifically transmitted by some vectors. Vector identification is hence crucial for vector control. Gold standard methods include morphological and molecular identification which are both limited by several drawbacks such as the level of expertise needed or the running costs for example. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry recently emerged in the field of medical entomology as a cheap, accurate and fast alternative. Protein extracts from the legs or cephalothoraces of arthropods were used to create databases which allowed identification of laboratory reared mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, tsetse flies, sandflies, triatomines but also field specimens. Since then, MALDI-TOF MS profiling has also been used to identify the blood meals of mosquitoes and to detect the pathogens carried by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas.