Marcelo Ramalho-Ortigao


Department of Primary Appointment:
School of Medicine
Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics
Location: Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
Research Interests:
Vector-borne diseases and vector biology, leishmaniasis, arboviruses, vector control
Immunopathology and ecology of vector-borne diseases, emerging infectious diseases
Office Phone


B. Sc. Biological Sciences, State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
D. Sc. Molecular and Cell Biology, Oswaldo Cruz Institute - FIOCRUZ, Rio de Janeiro
Postdoctoral training in molecular biology of disease vectors and immunobiology of leishmaniasis, National Institutes of Health


My overarching interests are on the biology of disease vectors. My research encompasses several aspects of the biology and physiology of sand flies and mosquitoes, immunobiology of vector borne-diseases, and vector control methodologies. Specific interests are focused on vector-pathogen and vector innate immunity. I have developed various protocols to investigate details of vector-parasite molecular interactions, pioneered sand fly-Leishmania interactions, the characterization of sand fly genes regulated by Leishmania infection, identified targets for transmission blocking vaccines, and performed pioneering studies on various aspects of mosquito physiology and morphology. I have extensive expertise in molecular, biochemical, and immunological techniques, and extensive experience working in the field, specifically on the biology of sand flies and epidemiology of leishmaniasis, and mosquito biology. Contribution to Science
1. Pioneered studies demonstrating that Leishmania regulate gene expression within the sand fly vector midgut. Our approaches were proven invaluable for the characterization of underlying aspects of sand fly-Leishmania interactions;
2. I led studies on the molecular and biochemical characterization, and function of several sand fly molecules with roles in Leishmania development, and co-authored a seminal study on the characterization of the first parasite receptor identified in the gut of a vector that laid the groundwork for the use of transmission blocking vaccines against leishmaniasis;
3. I led review studies on novel approaches to control vectors and vector-borne diseases, and co-authored a policy study on priorities and research in leishmaniasis in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). The latter provided a framework of partnerships to scientists and health care providers in that region;
4. Co-authored field and model based studies have assessed biotic and abiotic factors possible involved in shaping the sialome (salivary transcriptome) in natural sand fly populations, the effects of irrigation on sand fly distribution (in Tunisia), and we have recently demonstrated that, for zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniasis (ZVL), vector control is the most cost effective way of dealing with the issue of ZVL.
5. Co-authored studies focused on several aspects of mosquito physiology;
6. Co-authored white paper on the sand fly genome sequencing

Representative publications, projects, and/or deployments

Current: Associate Professor of Vector Biology, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics (PMB), Division of Tropical Public Health, Associate Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases (secondary appointment), Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Bethesda, MD

Previously: Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, Kansas State University (2012-2016); Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology, Kansas State University (2008-2012); Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame (2005-2008)

Honors: Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority (CSURM) Fellowship (2015); The Joseph V Scaletti 2013 Annual Lecturer, University of New Mexico Health Center

Current projects: Innate immunity of sand fly larvae; Paratransgenesis; Environmentally-friendly mosquito larvicide; Tick-transmitted ricketisial pathogens; risk assessment tools to prevent vector borne diseases

Book chapter: Ramalho-Ortigão M and Coutinho-Abreu I (2012) Transgenesis, Paratransgenesis and Transmission Blocking Vaccines to Prevent Insect-Borne Diseases”, in Integrated Pest Management and Pest Control- Current and Future Tactics, edited by ML Larramendy and S Soloneski, ISBN 978-953-51-0050-8 (DOI: 10.5772/1383)

Book chapter: Hurwitz I, Forshaw A, Yacisin K, Ramalho-Ortigao M, Satoskar A, and Durvasula R (2014) “Paratransgenic Control of Leishmaniasis”, in Pathogenesis of Leishmaniasis: New Developments in Research, p. 25-43, edited by AR Satoskar and R Durvasula, ISBN 978-1-4614-9107-1 (doi 10.1007/978-1-4614-9108-8_3)


Recent publications (2015-2017)

Fraihi W Wasfi F, Perrin P, Dorkeld F, Barhoumi W, Cherni S, Chelbi I, Durvasula, Ramalho-Ortigao M, Sereno D, Zhioua E (2017) An integrated overview of the midgut bacterial flora composition of Phlebotomus perniciosus, a vector of zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis in the Western Mediterranean Basin. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. Mar 29;11(3):e0005484. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005484. PMID:28355207

Malta J, Heerman M, Weng J-L, Fernandes K, Martins G, Ramalho-Ortigao M (2017) Midgut morphological changes and autophagy during metamorphosis in sand flies. Cell and Tissue Research. Mar 11. doi: 10.1007/s00441-017-2586-z. PMID:28285352

Zhao S, Kuang Y, Wu CH, Ben-Arieh D, Ramalho-Ortigao M, Bi K (2016) Zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis transmission: modeling, backward bifurcation, and optimal control. J Math Biol, 73(6-7):1525-1560

Barhoumi W, Fares W, Cherni S, Derbali M, Dachraoui K, Chelbi I, Ramalho-Ortigao M, Beier JC, Zhioua E (2016) Changes of sand fly populations and Leishmania infantum infection rates in an irrigated village located in arid Central Tunisia. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Mar 16;13(3). pii: E329. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13030329.

Schaut RG, Robles-Murguia M, Juelsgaard R, Esch KJ, Bartholomay LC, Ramalho-Ortigao M, Petersen CA (2015) Vertically-transmitted Leishmania infantum from North American dogs maintains ability for vector-borne transmission in Lutzomyia spp. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 21(12):2209-12. doi: 10.3201/eid2112.141167

Heerman, M, Weng JL, Hurwitz I, Durvasula R, Ramalho-Ortigao M (2015) Bacterial infection and immune responses in Lutzomyia longipalpis sand fly larvae midgut. PLoS Neg Trop Dis, 9(7):e0003923. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003923

Ramalho-Ortigão M, Coutinho-Abreu IV, Balbino VQ, Figueiredo Jr CAS, Mukbel M, Dayem H, Hanafi HA, El-Hossary SS, Fawaz EEY, Abo-Shehada M, Hoel DF, Stayback G, Wadsworth M, Shoue DA, Abrudan J, Lobo NF, Mahon AR, Emrich SJ, Kamhawi S, Collins FH, McDowell MA (2015) Phlebotomus papatasi SP15: mRNA expression variability and amino acid sequence polymorphisms of field populations. Parasites & Vectors, 8(1):298.

Costa-Júnior CRL, Freitas MT, Figueirêdo-Júnior CAS, Aragão NC, Gomes LS, Marcondes CB, Dias-Neto RV, Leal-Balbino TC, Ramalho-Ortigao M, Balbino VQ (2015) Genetic structure and fixed polymorphisms in natural populations of Lutzomyia longipalpis in Brazil, based on the period gen. Parasit Vectors, 8(1):193

Di Blasi T, Lobo AR, Nascimento LM, Córdova-Rojas, JL Pestana K, Marín-Villa M, Tempone AJ, Telleria EL, Ramalho-Ortigão M, McMahon-Pratt D, Traub-Cseko Y (2015). The flagellar protein FLAG1/SMP1 is a new candidate for Leishmania-sand fly interaction. Vector-Borne Zoonotic Dis, 15(3):202-9. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2014.1736