Antoine ClaessensLaboratory of pathogen host interactions (LPHI) - CNRS - Université de Montpellier
Biochemist by training, my malaria research career started as PhD student at Edinburgh University, during which I discovered that P. falciparum group-A var genes were necessary for binding to endothelial cells in an in vitro model for cerebral malaria. During my post-doc at the Sanger Institute, I showed how mitotic ectopic recombination creates new “chimeric” var genes using next-generation sequencing tools. I was then awarded an MRC fellowship based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and at the MRC-Gambia for a Plasmodium falciparum population genomic study. In The Gambia, I designed a field study to recruit a unique cohort of asymptomatic volunteers. From the bench to bioinformatics via the bush, I am now an all-rounder malariologist starting my own group as a Chargé de Recherche Inserm at LPHI and MIVEGEC, Montpellier. With funding from an ANR-JCJC, we focus on parasite genomic and transcriptomic from field isolates collected in The Gambia.
Mon projet ATIP-Avenir
MIRaGe: Malaria Infectious Reservoir and Genomics
A major challenge for any malaria elimination campaign is Plasmodium falciparum asymptomatic infections, the hidden infectious reservoir. Nevertheless, these infections can provide useful information on the host-pathogen interactions over an extended period of time. Here, I want to understand how P. falciparum parasites can survive in chronic infections over the 6-month long dry season, using a unique but already available collection of blood samples from a cohort of asymptomatic volunteers. With single-cell RNA-seq, I will explore how the parasite senses its environment and adapt to it. With single-cell genomics, I will estimate the age of the infection based on the accumulation of mutations. With qPCR and flow cytometry, I will finally test the central dogma that antigenic variation is at the basis of a chronic infection. This proposal will greatly advance our understanding of the parasite, host and vector interactions, and could reveal key molecular drivers of asymptomatic infections, a critical step to enable the eradication of malaria.