Antibacterial Peptides in Insect Vectors of Tropical Parasitic Disease

  1. Joan Marsh Organizer and
  2. Jamie A. Goode
  1. P. J. Ham,
  2. C. Albuquerque,
  3. B. Smithies,
  4. R. Chalk,
  5. S. Klager and
  6. H. Hagen

Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470514658.ch9

Ciba Foundation Symposium 186 - Antimicrobial Peptides

Ciba Foundation Symposium 186 - Antimicrobial Peptides

How to Cite

Ham, P. J., Albuquerque, C., Smithies, B., Chalk, R., Klager, S. and Hagen, H. (2007) Antibacterial Peptides in Insect Vectors of Tropical Parasitic Disease, in Ciba Foundation Symposium 186 - Antimicrobial Peptides (eds J. Marsh and J. A. Goode), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470514658.ch9

Author Information

  1. Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Keele, Near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471950257

Online ISBN: 9780470514658



  • antibacterial peptides;
  • insect vectors;
  • tropical parasitic disease;
  • insect defensin;
  • anti-gram-negative activity


The induction and characterization of immune peptides in two groups of medically important insects, the mosquitoes and blackflies, is currently an important research area. Mosquitoes transmit a variety of viral and parasitic diseases including yellow fever, dengue, malaria and lymphatic filariasis. Simuliid blackflies are vectors of river blindness. The diseases are together responsible for death and morbidity in millions of people each year. The relationship between inducible peptides and bacterial and parasitic infections in these insects is proving to be a complex one. The identification of an insect defensin (4 kDa) in Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, has proved to be the first peptide characterized in a vector of human disease. This inducible molecule appears in the haemolymph in response to bacterial and to a lesser extent filarial infection. The characterization of inducible blackfly peptides has revealed potent inducible anti-Gram-positive as well as anti-Gram-negative activity. In addition, non-self recognition molecules such as phenoloxidase may play a part in differentiating one species of eukaryotic pathogen from another of the same genus. The interactions between the peptides and these other proteins are likely to be important in the establishment of a successful immune response against a parasitic pathogen, particularly as we now know these peptides to have anti-eukaryotic activity (against a range of parasite species). As well as being of fundamental interest in our understanding of host-parasite relationships, the indication that antibacterial peptides are toxic to parasitic organisms has implications for their possible use in the disease vector control strategies of the future. It may also mean that a revision in our understanding of their mode of action, loose as it is, has to take place.