Tuesday, July 11, 2023

A medical entomologist battles bubonic plague in Madagascar

"There are 48 different species of fleas in Madagascar, but only a handful of them are found in a human environment," says Adelaide Miarinjara, an expert in the ecology of plague transmission.

Madagascar is famous for its biodiversity and unique wildlife, especially lemurs. Less well known is that it’s a hot spot for bubonic plague. The island nation off the southeast coast of Africa is one of the last places where large outbreaks of human plague happen regularly. 

Adelaide Miarinjara, who grew up in Madagascar, is now a medical entomologist and a postdoctoral fellow at Emory. Her project, unraveling some of the many mysteries surrounding plague, spans the lab of Thomas Gillespie, Emory professor of environmental sciences, and the Pasteur Institute. 

“I chose not to study lemurs,” Miarinjara says. “So many people are already doing that. The animals that I work with, rats and fleas, are not nearly as charismatic. But learning about them may lead to better policies to prevent people getting plague.” 

“As a microbiologist, Adelaide is extremely creative,” Gillespie says. “She’s developed whole new protocols for studying fleas that are allowing her to zero in on unanswered questions.”

Read more about her work here.


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