Vector Biology

The Vector Biology Research Program supports research to discover new ways to prevent the spread of diseases transmitted to humans by vectors – organisms that transmit pathogens to vertebrate hosts. NIAID supports research on a wide range of vectors, including mollusks (certain fresh-water snails) and blood-feeding arthropods, such as mosquitoes, ticks, mites, triatomine bugs, and certain flies (including sand flies and tsetse flies).

Why is the study of Vector Biology a priority for NIAID?

As the recent Zika outbreak has demonstrated, vector-borne diseases have a significant impact on global public health. Vectors are responsible for the spread and transmission of some of the world's most devastating human diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, Zika, leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease. The pathogens responsible for causing these diseases affect millions of people each year. Studying the behavior, ecology and interactions of vectors with these pathogens and with their human hosts will help researchers better understand how transmission can be prevented.

How is NIAID addressing this critical topic?

NIAID conducts and supports basic and translational research to better understand vector biology and behavior and to develop products that can help prevent the spread of vector-borne infectious diseases. These efforts include studies on the relationship of vectors with their environment, with the disease-causing pathogens they transmit, and with their mammalian and avian hosts, as well as diverse approaches to controlling vector populations and the transmission of pathogens to people.

The following research areas are currently represented in the vector biology program:

  • Ecology, epidemiology, and behavior
  • Biochemistry and physiology
  • Genomics, proteomics, population genetics, genetic modification of vectors
  • Pathogen/vector interactions and factors influencing pathogen development and transmission
  • Vector/vertebrate host interactions
  • Vector microbiome and its effect on pathogen development and vector physiology
  • Vector immunity
  • Insecticide resistance
  • Identification of targets for development of new larvicides/insecticides/repellents
  • Novel vector control approaches
  • New devices to collect, trap, and identify vectors
  • Effect of vector saliva and other factors in the transmission of pathogens to vertebrate hosts

Vector Biology Research in NIAID Labs

Several laboratories at NIAID collaborate and conduct research on vector biology and disease spread by vector organisms. The Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research (LMVR) is dedicated to studies of malaria and insect vectors of infectious diseases. Research groups in the laboratory, which include the Mosquito Immunity and Vector Competence Section, the Vector Biology Section, and the Vector Molecular Biology Unit investigate disease-transmitting insects and broad areas of malaria biology and pathogenesis.

For Researchers: 

Resources for Researchers

NIAID offers a suite of preclinical resources to support research, including vector biology. These include reagents and organisms offered through repositories such as BEI and the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses (WRCEVA), genomics, bioinformatics and population biology databases (VectorBase), as well as other services designed to facilitate product development. 


NIAID collaborations on vector biology research include efforts to better understand the effects of arthropod blood feeding on the spread of infectious diseases. 

Content last reviewed on March 29, 2018