• Chloroplast DNA

    constitutes the chloroplast genome: transmitted only by mothers, very little variation over time, makes it possible to track maternal lineages

  • Mitochondrial DNA

    constitutes the mitochondrial genome: transmitted only by mothers, very little variation over time, makes it possible to track maternal lineages

  • Apoptosis

    ability to induce programmed cell death

  • Blood-brain barrier Barrier (BBB)

    barrier between the peripheral blood and central nervous system

  • Endothelial cell

    specialized cell that is part of the composition of blood vessels

  • NK cells

    class of immune cells with a cytotoxic function

  • Chloroplasts

    cellular compartments in plants responsible for photosynthesis. Transmitted only by mothers.

  • Cytoadherence

    ability to adhere to cells, particularly endothelial cells

  • Epitope

    immunogenic protein fragment

  • Phylogenetic Study

    Development study of the genetic evolution of a living being (micro-organism, plant, animal)

  • Hepatocyte

    specialized liver cells

  • Hepatoma

    malignant liver tissue cell

  • Isolate

    a parasite strain isolated from the field

  • Deep microvascular beds

    small blood vessels in the deep tissues, in particular the brain

  • Mitochondria

    cellular structures in animals, responsible for energy synthesis. Transmitted only by mothers.

  • Pathogenicity

    ability to induce disease

  • PBMC

    peripheral blood mononuclear cells

  • Phenotypic

    related to the structure

  • Phylogeography

    analysis that also takes into account the geographical distribution of the lines studied

  • Primatology

    study of the species of the order of primates

  • Primatologist

    someone who specializes in the science of primates.

  • CTL response

    cytotoxic immune response

  • Reservoir

    animal species that hosts a pathogen over a long period

  • Trypanosomiasis

    sleeping sickness

Health Ecology Research Unit


The Health Ecology Research Unit develops a systemic approach to zoonotic infectious diseases for a better understanding of the mechanisms of emergence (transmission, crossing species barriers), maintenance and dissemination of pathogens within populations and changing environments (endemization). The purpose of this approach is to improve the surveillance and prevention of emergence or re-emergence of pathogens.



Head of Unit : Jean-Paul Gonzalez

The Health Ecology Research Unit was opened in 2009. It brings together researchers in the fields of health sciences (microbiology, pathology, health geography) and biological sciences (ecology, biology & population genetics), to work on innovative themes using a multidisciplinary approach to Health Ecology research.

The Unit is composed of four teams

1. Ecology of reservoirs (led by Dr. Matthew Bourgarel).

2. Ecology of vector systems (led by Dr. Christopher Paupy).

3. Primatology and Health (with the Primate Centre).

4. Accumulation and combination of pathologies (led by J.-P. Gonzalez)

The Team in 2010 :

- Researchers: M. Bourgarel, J.-P. Gonzalez, C. Paupy, J. Mavoungou, G. Moussavou

- MAEE International Volunteer: P. Motsch

- Post doc: G.R. Ndong-Atome
- Technical agents: P. Yangari, D. Ndzegho, A.


- Laboratory of General and Molecular Biology

- Medical Entomology Laboratory

- Insectarium

- Two scientific stations for research projects on topics related to Health Ecology (climate change, biodiversity, animal behaviour, population dynamics, biodiversity):

  • Gorilla and Chimpanzee Research Station in the Lopé National Park
  •  The Health Observatory in Dienga.


1. Biodiversity and conditions for the emergence of zoonotic pathogens.

2. Forest dynamics and environmental change.

3. Natural cycle of arboviruses.

4. Conservation medicine.


1. Ecology of natural hosts of filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg): The project aims to understand the mechanisms that govern the relations and contacts between susceptible hosts (human and apes) and the reservoir species (bats) and to identify environmental changes that promote the transmission, emergence / re-emergence and spread of filoviruses.

2. Primate Health: This project is a collaboration between the Health Ecology Unit and the CIRMF Retrovirology Unit, Emerging Diseases Unit and the Primate Centre. Studies on viruses such as SIV are currently being conducted on primates in captivity at the Centre and wild animals in the Lopé National Park.


3. Study of the sun-tailed guenon: the project develops fundamental knowledge on this species endemic to Gabon and provides tools essential for its conservation. The innovative aspect of this project is its multidisciplinary approach that involves primatology (biology, ethology), ecology and medical biology: 1 / acquisition of descriptive knowledge of this rare and little studied species, 2 / ecology and genetics of the only semi-captive colony maintained at the Primate Centre, and 3 / study of the geographic distribution and demography of the species

4. Study of the natural cycles of arboviruses: Rift Valley Fever Model. This project aims to:

1) define the modes of circulation of the virus in Central Africa

2) define the relationship between the domestic and sylvatic cycles (animals and humans);

3) define whether the sylvatic cycles in Central Africa may act as a reservoir for the viruses responsible for epidemic and epizootic outbreaks (Collaboration with Emerging Viral Diseases Unit, CIRMF). Similar approaches should be used for other viruses such as West Nile virus.

5. Urban arboviruses : Dengue fever virus and chikungunya models. The dengue virus (DENV) and chikungunya virus (CHIKV) circulate in urban areas in Gabon where we observe the presence of their major vectors (Aedes aegypti - native species - and Aedes albopictus - invasive species imported to Gabon). Study of the endosymbiotic bacteria of the genus Wolbachia and their impact on transmission of CHIKV and DENV (Collaboration, Pasteur Institute in Paris and Emerging Viral Diseases Unit).

View of the gorilla and chimpanzee research station (Lope)


“Rodents and pathogens”: Ecology of the transmission of infectious agents by rodents and the role of environmental disturbances as a risk factor for the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

This research project aims to characterize the processes contributing to host-pathogen associations, considering the environment and the evolutionary history of the interacting species.

Objective: Make an inventory of species of rodents present in Gabon, and understand their spatial distribution and their spatiotemporal dynamics.


Health Ecology Observatory in Gabon: the CIRMF is, de facto, a health observatory for Gabon and the entire subregion. It is also a leading diagnostic laboratory for most of the epidemics in Central Africa. The objective is to establish health ecology observatories at the CIRMF field stations. This involves developing long-term monitoring systems focusing on the ecology of wildlife reservoirs, hosts or known vectors, and the risk of transmission due to climate change and environmental disruption. These observatories will eventually join the regional epidemiological surveillance system and the developing international network of health observatories (Southern Africa, Indian Ocean and South East Asia)


Experimental Entomology Platform: Study of the transmission of arboviruses in a controlled environment..


Ph.D. students, Masters II, interns (2010: F. Baldacchino, J. Chotte).



• International: CIRAD, CNRS, IRD, MNHN, WCS; Universities: Bonn, Paris X, Montpellier II, Lyon I, Pasteur Institute network.