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Dr Tom Walker

Associate Professor

Email: Thomas.Walker.1@warwick.ac.uk

Phone: 024 765 72965

Office: B1.40


Research Clusters

Microbiology & Infectious Disease

Environment & Ecology


Opportunities in the group

For PhD and postdoctoral opportunities, and interest in potential collaborations, please contact me at the above email address.

Research/Teaching Interests

I am a medical entomologist and my research group studies novel methods of control for insect-borne diseases such as malaria. The main focus of our research is on the endosymbiotic bacterium Wolbachia and we explore ways in which this bacterium can be used to reduce human pathogen transmission. My group undertakes both field and lab research and have worked on collaborative projects in numerous malaria-endemic countries including Cameroon, Guinea, Madagascar, Kenya and the DRC. My main interest is now leading the development of Wolbachia-based biological control methods for Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria following the success of my previous work as part of the World Mosquito Program. The Wolbachia-infected Aedes aegypti mosquito line I created were released into wild populations and has recently been shown to reduce the incidence of symptomatic dengue and hospitalisations by ~77% in a randomised control trial in Indonesia. These lines I created have now been released into more than 12 dengue endemic countries and are having significant effects on dengue transmission.

 

My research interests in malaria have expanded to include collaborations on molecular insecticide resistance and the wider mosquito microbiome. I have also been involved in mosquito surveillance projects in Greece & Albania (West Nile virus), Ghana (malaria parasites), Ethiopia (yellow fever virus), Brazil (Zika virus), Tanzania (lymphatic filariasis parasites), St Lucia (arboviruses) and Madagascar (rift valley fever virus). I am particularly interested in novel methods for vector and pathogen surveillance. In the lab we undertake molecular analysis of wild caught insect samples (mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks) and develop insect embryo injection protocols including projects supporting genetic modification of sandflies (vectors of leishmaniasis) and Triatomine bugs (vectors of Chagas disease). My research has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, Royal Society, MRC, BBSRC, USAid, RSHTM and the Sir Halley Stewart Trust.

Research: Technical Summary

I have expertise on arboviruses and parasites, the mosquito microbiome and how that affects pathogen transmission, methods of injecting insect embryos and PCR-based methods for pathogen screening and molecular insecticide resistance. I established my research group in 2014 and we routinely perform molecular analysis of insect disease vectors with semi-high throughput capacity. We work both in field settings (collecting insects) and undertake lab work which can culminate in metagenomic analysis. Techniques we employ include molecular species identification (sanger sequencing), quantification of microbial densities (qPCR), microbial diversity (16s rRNA sequencing) and phylogenetic analysis using multi-locus strain typing (eg. newly discovered Wolbachia strains). We also have capacity for fluorescence imaging (eg. FISH) and are moving towards whole genome sequencing. I also have expertise in mosquito colonisation and embryo microinjection including all mosquito genera. I’m a management board member of the ANTI-Vec (Application of novel transgenic technology & inherited symbionts to Vector Control) network which aims to facilitate the development and implementation of novel control strategies for vector-borne diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

I also have significant postgraduate teaching experience as I was an MSc module organiser, member of MSc degrees exam boards and departmental research degrees co-ordinator overseeing the progress of Phd students in my previous role at LSHTM. I’ve supervised more than 20 MSc research projects, 4 Phd students and been a personal tutor for 15 MSc students. I’ve been a mentor for early career scientists (including those based overseas) and have lectured on topics such as emerging arboviral diseases and mosquito sampling, identification and incrimination. I have also contributed to two Massive Open online courses entitled Preventing the Zika Virus: Understanding and Controlling the Aedes Mosquito (2016) and Vector control of medically important insects (2018). External roles include being associate editor for the journals Insects and BMC Infectious Diseases.

  • Associate Professor (Reader): School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick (2022-current)
  • Associate Professor/Sir Henry Dale Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Fellow: Department of Disease Control, LSHTM (2019-2022)
  • Assistant Professor/Sir Henry Dale Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Fellow: Department of Disease Control, LSHTM (2014-2019)
  • Higher Scientific Officer: Department of Virology, APHA (2013-2014)
  • Postdoctoral researcher: School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Australia (2011-2012)
  • Postdoctoral researcher: School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia (2008-2011)
  • Doctorate of Philosophy (Dphil): University of Oxford (2007)
  • MSc Biology & Control of Disease Vectors: LSHTM (2002)
  • BSc Biology: Imperial College (2001)