Mary Ann McDowell Professor

Immunoparasitology and Vector Biology
Mary Ann McDowell

Research Interests:

The overriding research focus in the laboratory is the biology of infectious diseases. Infections account for 16.2% of annual deaths worldwide, being responsible for 2 of 3 deaths in children under age 5. Successful control strategies to combat these devastating diseases must be multi-factorial, combining attacks on human infections and targeting diverse aspects of pathogen biology. This combinatorial approach provides the conceptual framework of our research program to investigate immunology, host cell-biology, pathogen diversity and insect vector biology, using both laboratory models and field-based studies.  We exploit Leishmania infection as a model to address fundamental immunological and cell biology questions. We study both murine and human systems utilizing a range of immunological, biochemical and genomics techniques, including drug discovery for new chemotherapeutics. In addition, our research program extends to address questions specific to the phlebotomine sand flies that transmit Leishmania and other insect vectors of human disease and to develop insecticides to control vector-borne diseases. On project evaluates the feasibility of using sand fly saliva as a vaccine component to combat leishmaniasis by assessing human immune responses to sand fly saliva and genetic variability of sand fly populations in the Middle East. Further, our laboratory coordinates an international effort to sequence the genome of two sand fly species. We also utilize insect-vector genome data for the identification and screening of novel insecticide targets and further characterize the role of these targets play in the biology of mosquitoes and sand flies.



  • Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, IN
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MD
  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
  • M.S., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE


Recent Papers:

  • Hamarsheh, O., M. Karakus, K. Azmi, K. Jaoudi, M. Reza Yaghoobi-Ershadi, A. Kruger, A. Amro, M. Kenawy, M. Dukan, and M.A. McDowell. Development of polymorphic microsatellite markers for the sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi (Diptera: Psychodidae). Parasites and Vectors. 11(1): 160 doi: 10.1186s1307-018-2770-3, 2018.
  • Polando, R., Jones, C.C. Carter, J.P. Whitcomb, W. Ballhorn, and M.A. McDowell. Role of mannose receptor in phagosome maturation during Leishmania infection. Parasite Immunology 40(4): e12521.
  • Flanley, C., M. Ramalho-Ortigao, I.V. Coutinho-Abreu, R.M. Mukbel, H. Hanafi, S. El-Hossary, E. Fawaz, D. Hoel, A.W. Bray, G. Stayback, D.A. Shoue, S. Kamhawi,K. Jaouadi, M. R. Yaghoobie-Ershadi, A. Kruger, M.A. Kenawy, M. R. Dokhan, Al. Warburg, O. Hamarsheh, and M.A. McDowell. Population genetics analysis of Phlebotomus papatasi sand flies from North Africa and Middle East regions based on mitochondrial Cytochorme b  Parasites and Vectors 11(1): 214 doi: 10.1186/s13071-2785-9, 2018.
  • Ngai, M., and M.A. McDowell. The Search for Novel Insecticide Targets in the Post-Genomics Era.  Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz,112(1):1-, 2017.
  • Mukbel, R.M., R. H. Khasharmeh, N.S. Hijjawi, M.S. Khlaifeh, M.M. Hatmal, and M.A. McDowell. Human immune response to wild Phlebotomus papatasi salivary proteins. Parasitology Research, 115(9):3345-3355. 2016.
  • Favila, M.A., N.S. Geraci, Jayakumar, S.A. Hickerson, S.J. Turco, S.M. Beverley, and M.A. McDowell, Leishmania major Friedlin V1 LPG and PG deficient mutants influence the human dendritic cell interleukin-12 immune response. PloS NTD PloS NTD 9(12):e0004238, 2015.
  • Geraci, N.S., J.C. Tan, and M.A. McDowell. Characterization of microRNA Expression Profiles in Leishmania Infected Human Phagocytes.  Parasite Immunology. 37(1):43-51, 2015.
  • Ramalho-Ortigao, M., Coutinho-Abreu, I.V., Balbino, V.Q., Figueiredo, C.A.S., Mukbel, R., Dayem, H., Hanafi, H.A., El-Hossary, S.S., Fawaz, E.E.Y., Abo-Shehada, M., Hoel, D.L., Stayback, G., Wadsworth, M., Lobo, N.F., Mahon, A.R., Kamhawi, S., Collins, F.H., McDowell, M.A. Phlebotomus papatasi SP15:  mRNA expression variability and amino acid sequence polymorphisms of field populations with potential impact for vaccine development. Parasites and Vectors, 8(1): 298, 2015.
  • McDowell, M.A. Vector-transmitted disease vaccines:  targeting salivary proteins in transmission (SPIT).  Trends in Parasitology, 31(8):363-72, 2015.
  • Favila, M.A., E. Zeng, Geraci, N.S., B. Harker, D. Condon, V. Tripathi, and M.A. McDowell. Human dendritic cells exhibit a pronounced type I IFN signature following Leishmania major infection that is required for IL-12 induction. J. Immunol., 192(12):5863-5872, 2014.