Theoretical Vector Biologist
I am a theoretical biologist studying mosquito-transmitted diseases. I am a staff scientist in the Vector Biology Unit at Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany, and an associated researcher at the Center for Health in Latin America (CISeAL), in Quito, Ecuador. My research focuses on the role of mosquito physiology, metabolism, and environment on the transmission success of malaria and dengue. In my work, I integrate data generated in experimental and field settings into mechanistic mathematical models of disease transmission. The aim? Understand how single mosquito traits influence transmission in humans. This is a unique approach that can identify novel mechanisms of transmission, showing immense potential for policy changes.
Malaria and dengue represent a major global health burden. Although these diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes, current eradication strategies often neglect their complex biological traits. I use bottom-up modelling approaches that integrate knowledge gained in field and laboratory settings into mathematical models of transmission. By quantifying how individual mosquito traits shape pathogen transmission in humans, I aim to identify novel mechanisms or misconceptions in the way transmission occurs.
Combining experimental, field and mathematical approaches, I focus on different questions:
HOW DOES MOSQUITO METABOLISM SHAPE MALARIA TRANSMISSION & EVOLUTION?
The metabolic status and blood-feeding behavior of mosquitoes is crucial in determining the development of the parasite. As the impact of these within-vector metabolic processes on Plasmodium transmission to human hosts is difficult to address experimentally, it largely remains unexplored. In this project, we conceptualize complex metabolic processes within the mosquito and its interactions with Plasmodium parasites, and integrate these into an individual-based model of malaria transmission. We study and quantify what are the strategies that parasites naturally evolve.
WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF CLIMATE ON MOSQUITO POPULATION DYNAMICS?
Because many traits in the mosquito life cycle are affected by their surrounding environment there has been increasing concern about how climate change will shape malaria transmission. But, the interactions between environment, parasites, and mosquitoes are highly complex and therefore difficult to study. What are the strongest environmental drivers of Anopheles mosquito abundance, and what aspects of the mosquito life cycle do they affect?
We use a combination of ordinary differential equations (ODE) and empirical dynamic modeling on time series data obtained in laboratory and field conditions, respectively. Our aim is to extract causal interactions between environmental variables and mosquito abundance.
I was born in Quito, Ecuador. Sponsored by a full scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) I moved to Karlsruhe, Germany in 2003 to study Electrical Engineering at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology. In 2010 I began my scientific career by starting a Ph.D. at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In 2015 I moved back to Germany to conduct a postdoctoral position at Heidelberg University, and in 2017 I moved again to Berlin to start another post at Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. Here, I am currently a staff scientist leading the theoretical biology group of the Vector Biology Unit.
As a Biomedical engineer, I have learned to study biological systems using a technical and quantitative lens. My journey began at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at KIT (head: Prof. Olaf Dössel), where I used mathematical models to predict how the electrical propagation of the heart is affected during atrial fibrillation. During my Ph.D. in the Theoretical Biology and Bioinformatics group in Utrecht (head: Prof. Rob J. de Boer) I focused on immunology and studied the evolution of innate immune cell receptors in response to co-evolving viruses. I next moved to the group of Modelling Infection & Immunity (head. Dr. Frederik Graw), in Heidelberg. There, I continued working on mathematical immunology analysing the spread of HIV-1 viruses in tissue and the effect of drug treatment on haemorrhagic fevers.
However, evolutionary systems have always intrigued me and therefore I moved to the Vector Biology Group in Berlin (head: Elena A. Levashina), where I could apply my curiosity to explore mechanisms underlying host-vector-pathogen co-evolution. My aim is to identify which mosquito life-history traits are crucial in determining transmission success to vertebrate hosts, how these might be affected by climate change, and which evolutionary forces would limit parasite fitness.
Since 2019 I have established a collaboration with the Center for Health in Latin America (CISeAL), in Quito, Ecuador (with Dr. Anita Villacis, and Dr. Marco Neira), where I am studying the effect of climate change on larval dynamics of Aedes mosquitoes, the vectors of arboviruses such as dengue, and Zika.
MOSQUITO METABOLISM SHAPES LIFE-HISTORY STRATEGIES OF PLASMODIUM PARASITES
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, G. Costa, L. Lampe, E. A. Levashina. biorXiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.07.06.498937
ENVIRONMENT-INFLUENCED LARVAL DEVELOPMENT DYNAMICS DETERMINE ADULT ANOPHELES ABUNDANCE IN MALI
J.D. Estupiñán, A.M. Weyrich, P. Schlösser, C. Naujoks, M.Gildenhard, A. Diarra, D. Camara, R. Mariko, M. Diallo, D. Sangare, C. Hsieh, E.A. Levashina, P. Carrillo-Bustamante (in preparation)
MOSQUITO MICROEVOLUTION DRIVES PLASMODIUM FALCIPARUM DYNAMICS.
M. Gildenhard, E. K. Rono, A. Diarra, A. Boissière, P. Bascunan, P. Carrillo-Bustamante, [and 22 others]. 2019. Nature Microbiology (4) 941-947.
NON-COMPETITIVE RESOURCE EXPLOITATION WITHIN MOSQUITO SHAPES WITHIN-HOST MALARIA INFECTIVITY AND VIRULENCE.
G. Costa, M. Gildenhard, M. Eldering, R. L. Lindquist, A. E. Hauser, R. Sauerwein, C. Goosmann, V. Brinkmann, P Carrillo-Bustamante, E.A. Levashina. 2018. Nature Communications 9 (3474).
EXPERIMENTAL AND COMPUTATIONAL ANALYSES REVEAL THAT ENVIRONMENTAL RESTRICTIONS SHAPE HIV-1 SPREAD IN 3D CULTURES.
A. Imle, P. Kumberger, N. D. Schnellbächer, J. Fehr, P. Carrillo-Bustamante, A. Janez, [and 10 others]. 2019. Nature Communications 10 (2144)
DETERMINING RIBAVIRIN’S MECHANISM OF ACTION AGAINST LASSA VIRUS INFECTION.
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, T. H. T. Nguyen, L. Oestereich, S. Günther, J. Guedj, F. Graw. 2017. Scientific Reports 7(1).
SPECIFICITY OF INHIBITORY KIRS ENABLES NK CELLS TO DETECT CHANGES IN AN ALTERED PEPTIDE ENVIRONMENT.
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, R.J. De Boer, C Kesmir. 2017. Immunogenetics 1-11.
THE EVOLUTION OF NK CELL RECEPTORS.
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, C. Kesmir, R.J. De Boer. 2015. Immunogenetics 1-16.
CAN SELECTIVE MHC DOWNREGULATION EXPLAIN THE SPECIFICITY AND GENETIC DIVERSITY OF NK CELL RECEPTORS?
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, C. Kesmir, R.J. De Boer. 2015. Frontiers Immunology 6:311.
A CO-EVOLUTIONARY ARMS RACE BETWEEN HOSTS AND VIRUSES DRIVES POLYMORPHISM AND POLYGENICITY OF NK CELL RECEPTORS.
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, C. Kesmir, R.J. De Boer. 2015. Molecular Biology and Evolution. msv096.
QUANTIFYING THE PROTECTION OF ACTIVATING AND INHIBITING NK CELL RECEPTORS DURING INFECTION WITH A CMV-LIKE VIRUS
P Carrillo-Bustamante, C Kesmir, RJ De Boer. 2014. Frontiers in Immunology.
VIRUS ENCODED MHC-LIKE DECOYS DIVERSIFY THE INHIBITORY KIR REPERTOIRE.
P. Carrillo-Bustamante, C. Kesmir, R.J. De Boer. 2013. PLoS Computational Biology; 9(10).
GRANTS & AWARDS
2021 Falling Walls Intensive Track Female Science Talents
2020 Klaus-Tschira Boost Fund (80 000 EUR)
2018 Best Oral presentation. V International Meeting of Research in Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine in Quito, Ecuador.
2012 Travel Grant sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) to the Workshop on Lymphocyte Repertoires (1200 EUR)
2003-2010 DAAD Full scholarship (~60 000 EUR )