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Interview: ‘I should have been in Africa right now, catching mosquitoes for my research’

This is an interview with a PhD student of the Vector-borne diseases projects in a series of background articles. Keep following this website for the next interview in this series.


Interview with Michel Schinkel, PhD student of the project ‘The virome of vector mosquitoes and its effect on pathogen transmission’ at Radboudumc.

“My ultimate goal is to find an insect-specific virus that inhibits the transmission of malaria and arboviruses to humans.

I studied Medical Sciences in Utrecht, where I worked with people who were suffering from leukaemia. I saw a lot of people dying from simple infectious diseases and I felt very strongly that we have to do something about this.

When this PhD came along, it seemed like the perfect match: immunology and bio-informatics. I also appreciate that we are studying viruses in Africa. There are still so many terrible diseases in lower-income countries, and hopefully my research can make a significant contribution there.

My research is about the transmission of malaria and arboviruses (viruses transmitted by mosquitoes to humans) such as yellow fever. The ultimate goal is to find an insect-specific virus that inhibits the transmission of these diseases to humans, but does not kill the insect itself. If we find one, this virus could be introduced into African mosquito colonies. Once it spreads, you should get more of this virus and less of the arboviruses.

I should have been in Burkina Faso right now, catching thousands of mosquitoes to bring back for research. But unfortunately the corona crisis made that impossible. But I just received good news: they will be sending us a batch of mosquitoes, which will enable me to start the vital parts of my research.”

PhD project: The virome of vector mosquitoes and its effect on pathogen transmission.