creating a
healthier future

Host-Parasite Interactions


Vector-borne protozoan parasites, such as those responsible for malaria and visceral leishmaniasis, pose substantial public health challenges globally. Our research is dedicated to deciphering the molecular and cellular processes involved in host-parasite interactions. This is crucial for driving forward the development of innovative therapeutic and preventive interventions required to effectively combat these diseases.


Hematogenous dissemination, followed by tissue tropism, is a defining feature of the infectious processes of many pathogens, particularly those transmitted by blood-feeding vectors. Upon entry into the bloodstream, these pathogens must navigate to and arrest at target organs before establishing infection in specific tissues. Through the use of advanced genetic manipulation techniques in parasites and state-of-the-art live imaging, our research aims to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying target tissue recognition by protozoan parasites upon blood dissemination. Those include the almost exclusive retention of Plasmodium sporozoites, the stage transmitted by infected mosquitoes, in the liver sinusoids in the first minutes after blood dissemination as well as the dynamics of the Leishmania infection occurring in the first hours. Through these studies, we anticipate uncovering novel molecules and mechanisms, providing insights into potential intervention targets.

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are an essential aspect of the intricate host-parasite interactions Currently, we are evaluating EVs proteins identified within the context of natural infections as potential biomarkers for managing leishmaniasis. Furthermore, we are exploring the involvement of Leishmania EVs in infection, with the overarching goal of discovering innovative approaches to combat the disease. These approaches may manifest as components for vaccination strategies or novel therapeutic options.

The expertise and methodologies used in these research efforts extend into the field of vaccine development, with a specific focus on targeting malaria sporozoites. Additionally, these tools are instrumental in drug development efforts, particularly against Trypanosomatids. Through a robust network of international collaborators, we maintain a steady flow of molecules to discover new leads and advance the development of promising scaffolds already identified.

If you are interested in collaborating or joining the lab, please email Joana Tavares (

The journey of malaria sporozoites from the skin to the liver. Sporozoites display fast gliding motility that can be tracked by intravital confocal microscopy (left). Once in the blood, sporozoites specifically home to the liver as detected by whole-body bioluminescence imaging (middle). Ultimately,


Selected Publications

Esteves S., Lima C., Costa I., Osório H., Fernandez-Becerra C., Santarém N., Cordeiro-da-Silva A.,
Characterization and Proteomic Analysis of Plasma EVs Recovered from Healthy and Diseased Dogs with Canine Leishmaniosis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences24(6):, 2023. [Journal: Article] [CI: 1] [IF: 5,6 (*)]
DOI: 10.3390/ijms24065490 SCOPUS: 85151486895

Teixeira A.R., Pérez-Cabezas B., Costa D.M., Sá M., Golba S., Sefiane-Djemaoune H., Ribeiro J., Kaneko I., Iwanaga S., Yuda M., Tsuji M., Boscardin S.B., Amino R., Cordeiro-da-Silva A., Tavares J.,
Immunization with CSP and a RIG-I Agonist is Effective in Inducing a Functional and Protective Humoral Response Against Plasmodium. Frontiers in Immunology13:, 2022. [Journal: Article] [IF: 7,3]
DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.868305 SCOPUS: 85131347001

Sá M., Costa D.M., Teixeira A.R., Pérez-Cabezas B., Formaglio P., Golba S., Sefiane-Djemaoune H., Amino R., Tavares J.,
MAEBL Contributes to Plasmodium Sporozoite Adhesiveness. International Journal of Molecular Sciences23(10):, 2022. [Journal: Article] [CI: 3] [IF: 5,6]
DOI: 10.3390/ijms23105711 SCOPUS: 85130320899

Sá M., Costa D.M., Tavares J.,
Imaging Infection by Vector-Borne Protozoan Parasites Using Whole-Mouse Bioluminescence. Methods in Molecular Biology2524:353-367, 2022. [Book Series: Book Chapter]
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2453-1_29 SCOPUS: 85133907400

Esteves S., Costa I., Luelmo S., Santarém N., Cordeiro-da-Silva A.,
Leishmania Vesicle-Depleted Exoproteome: What, Why, and How?. Microorganisms10(12):, 2022. [Journal: Review] [CI: 1] [IF: 4,5]
DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms10122435 SCOPUS: 85144653650

Ripp J., Kehrer J., Smyrnakou X., Tisch N., Tavares J., Amino R., Ruiz de Almodovar C., Frischknecht F.,
Malaria parasites differentially sense environmental elasticity during transmission. EMBO Molecular Medicine13(4):, 2021. [Journal: Article] [CI: 10] [IF: 14,3]
DOI: 10.15252/emmm.202113933 SCOPUS: 85102108770

Dickie E.A., Ronin C., Sá M., Ciesielski F., Trouche N., Tavares J., Santarem N., Major L.L., Pemberton I.K., MacDougall J., Smith T.K., Cordeiro-Da-Silva A., Ciapetti P.,
Toward chemical validation of Leishmania infantum ribose 5-phosphate isomerase as a drug target. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy65(7):, 2021. [Journal: Article] [CI: 3] [IF: 5,9]
DOI: 10.1128/AAC.01892-20 SCOPUS: 85108282526

Mendes Costa D., Cecílio P., Santarém N., Cordeiro-da-Silva A., Tavares J.,
Murine infection with bioluminescent Leishmania infantum axenic amastigotes applied to drug discovery. Scientific Reports9(1):, 2019. [Journal: Article] [CI: 10] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-55474-3 SCOPUS: 85076420685

Aliprandini E., Tavares J., Panatieri R.H., Thiberge S., Yamamoto M.M., Silvie O., Ishino T., Yuda M., Dartevelle S., Traincard F., Boscardin S.B., Amino R.,
Cytotoxic anti-circumsporozoite antibodies target malaria sporozoites in the host skin. Nature Microbiology3(11):1224-1233, 2018. [Journal: Letter] [CI: 58] [IF: 14,3]
DOI: 10.1038/s41564-018-0254-z SCOPUS: 85055548444

Pérez-Cabezas B., Santarém N., Cecílio P., Silva C., Silvestre R., A. M. Catita J., Cordeiro da Silva A.,
More than just exosomes: distinct Leishmania infantum extracellular products potentiate the establishment of infection. Journal of Extracellular Vesicles8(1):, 2019. [Journal: Article] [CI: 23] [IF: 15]
DOI: 10.1080/20013078.2018.1541708 SCOPUS: 85056987332

Costa D.M., Sá M., Teixeira A.R., Loureiro I., Thouvenot C., Golba S., Amino R., Tavares J.,
TRSP is dispensable for the Plasmodium pre-erythrocytic phase. Scientific Reports8(1):, 2018. [Journal: Article] [CI: 5] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-33398-8 SCOPUS: 85054635985

Tavares J., Costa D.M., Teixeira A.R., Cordeiro-da-Silva A., Amino R.,
In vivo imaging of pathogen homing to the host tissues. Methods127:37-44, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 13] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2017.05.008 SCOPUS: 85019637511

Faria J., Loureiro I., Santarém N., Ceclio P., Macedo-Ribeiro S., Tavares J., Cordeiro-da-Silva A.,
Disclosing the essentiality of ribose-5-phosphate isomerase B in Trypanosomatids. Scientific Reports6:, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 27] [IF: 4,3]
DOI: 10.1038/srep26937 SCOPUS: 84971221975

Faria J., Loureiro I., Santarém N., Macedo-Ribeiro S., Tavares J., Cordeiro-da-Silva A.,
Leishmania infantum Asparagine Synthetase A Is Dispensable for Parasites Survival and Infectivity. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases10(1):, 2016. [Journal: Article] [CI: 9] [IF: 3,8]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004365 SCOPUS: 84969443688

Loureiro I., Faria J., Clayton C., Macedo-Ribeiro S., Santarém N., Roy N., Cordeiro-da-Siva A., Tavares J.,
Ribose 5-Phosphate Isomerase B Knockdown Compromises Trypanosoma brucei Bloodstream Form Infectivity. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases9(1):, 2015. [Journal: Article] [CI: 20] [IF: 3,9]
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003430 SCOPUS: 84922219276

Ménard R., Tavares J., Cockburn I., Markus M., Zavala F., Amino R.,
Looking under the skin: The first steps in malarial infection and immunity. Nature Reviews Microbiology11(10):701-712, 2013. [Journal: Review] [CI: 137] [IF: 23,3]
DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro3111 SCOPUS: 84884228351

Tavares J., Formaglio P., Thiberge S., Mordelet E., Van Rooijen N., Medvinsky A., Ménard R., Amino R.,
Role of host cell traversal by the malaria sporozoite during liver infection. Journal of Experimental Medicine210(5):905-915, 2013. [Journal: Article] [CI: 139] [IF: 13,9]
DOI: 10.1084/jem.20121130 SCOPUS: 84879577443

Ongoing Projects

Exosomas como uma fonte de novos biomarcadores para a Leishmaniose canina
Reference: PTDC/CVT-CVT/6798/2020
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-MAR-21 to 31-DEC-24
Immunological mechanisms of vaccines
Reference: COTUTELAS PESSOA 2022-2024
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 07-MAR-22 to 06-MAR-25
Primeira Caracterização Serologica Molecular e Sociodemografica da exposição a Leishmania spp na população infetada pelo VIH na região Norte de Portugal
Reference: Gilead GENESE 2022 - Proj. 17873 - PO 205013390
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: Gilead Sciences
From 01-FEB-23 to 31-DEC-24