Dr. Luis Martinez Villegas is focused on identifying microorganisms isolated from natural Aedes aegypti larval sites, harnessing them as “probiotics” provided to larvae with the aim of improving measurable adult male traits. Our goals are to not only to identify such beneficial microorganisms but enhancing our understanding of the underlying mechanisms to the net positive effects detected.
Author summary of recent publication:
Villegas LEM, Radl J, Dimopoulos G, Short SM (2023) Bacterial communities of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes differ between crop and midgut tissues. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 17(3): e0011218. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0011218
Bacteria inside mosquitoes’ guts have been found to have an impact on mosquito life history traits (such as longevity and fecundity) as well as their susceptibility to infection by human pathogens. Engineering these communities may provide an effective and safe way to control mosquitoes and reduce the impact of the pathogens they spread. In this work, we assayed the bacteria found in midgut and crop tissues of a medically important mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Our results show that these tissues harbor communities of bacteria that differ in composition and function and vary in abundance. Experiments like ours are important to better understand where bacteria are found in an insect’s body and how these communities assemble. This knowledge may help future researchers more successfully engineer bacterial communities in mosquitoes.
From the Entomology Graduate Student Association Spotlight, January 2023 edition
My name is Luis Martinez, and I am from Guatemala. Research, and a couple of life twists, have allowed me to call Brazil, Sweden, and now Columbus OH home. Since December of 2020 have worked at Dr. Sarah Short's research group. Along with her and my lab mates we study the role microbes play in several aspects of mosquito (and other vectors like ticks) biology ranging from basic physiology to more nuanced life history traits. I rely particularly on genomics and computational tools to (i) determine the microbial community structures within, or outside, their arthropod host; (ii) contextualize these communities, and their potential functions, to their host biology and behaviors. Though I enjoy analyzing data, I have been fortunate to do plenty of field work in different natural scenarios. I value this aspect as it has always kept me in contact with the people that live side by side with these disease vectors, and the people that try to surveil and control them on the ground.
- What accomplishment are you most proud of? Doesn't have to be work related!
I am a very proud uncle. I have enjoyed seeing my nieces and nephews growing up knowing that I have influenced / inspired them in some ways. I also worked as a forensic geneticist back in Guatemala. It was very meaningful as it was related to the civil war and bringing closure to people searching for their missing. I am still very proud of the first solved case.
- Is there anything people often misunderstand about you at first?
I'd say it is related to being a very chatty introvert.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
Indiana Jones! or a scientist exploring the Amazon jungle. I was convinced I would either dig up ancient artifacts, or study ants and mosquitos (both abundant in the neighborhood).