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Chief of Party, PMI VectorLink, Colombia

Manuela Herrera-Varela is a medical entomologist with more than 15 years of experience in the study of malaria vectors and the design and implementation of malaria vector projects. Her passion for acquiring knowledge to combat vector-borne diseases has taken her from South America to East Africa and back again, working in both basic and applied science. As a postgraduate research fellow in Kenya, she was a member of the research team that for the first time identified a chemical in bodies of water that attracts pregnant, malaria-carrying mosquitos. This provided critical knowledge to validate new strategies such as larvicides for killing mosquitos that are resistant to insecticides or bite and rest outside the house, rendering bednets and indoor insecticide spraying ineffective.

Herrera-Varela is currently the chief of party of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) VectorLink Colombia project. The U.S. Agency for International Development funds the project and receives technical assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Working with the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the Colombian National Institute of Health, Herrera-Varela oversees the development and co-implementation of a comprehensive, controlled randomized evaluation study on the efficacy of insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying as vector controls along Colombia’s Pacific Coast. This is the first study of its kind in Latin America, where mosquito behaviors differ from those in Africa. To undertake this work, Herrera-Varela and her team have recruited and trained 42 local mosquito collectors, 70 percent of whom are women. In addition to learning new skills, these women contribute to their families’ and communities’ economic well-being.

Before joining Abt, Herrera-Varela was a postdoctoral researcher in the Amazonia-Center of Excellence for Malaria Research, leading the field data collection for the vector biology group in the Peruvian Amazon. Her goal was to enable new approaches to eliminate silent reservoirs and hotspots of malaria transmission in the Amazon region. For three years, Herrera-Varela was a postgraduate research fellow at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, doing groundbreaking research on Anopheles mosquitoes on Rusinga Island in Western Kenya. She has served as a consultant on public health entomology to the Pan American Health Organization, Conservational International Colombia, National Institute of Health, Colombia, and several malaria vector projects. She also has served as a research assistant and on the faculty of medicine at the National University of Colombia.


  • Entomology
  • Design and implementation of vector control programs
  • Monitoring and evaluation

Key Projects:

  • PMI VectorLink


  • Morales-Viteri, D., Herrera-Varela, M., Albuja, M., Quiroga, C., Diaz, G., Del Aguila, C., Ramirez, D., Vinetz, JM., Bickersmith, S., Conn, JE. (2021) New records of Anopheles benarrochi B (Diptera: Culicidae) in malaria hotspots in the Amazon regions of Ecuador and Peru. Journal of Medical Entomology, 58:3
  • Lindh, JM., Okal, MN., Herrera-Varela, M., Borg-Karlson, A-K., Torto, B., Lindsay, SW., Fillinger, U. (2015). Discovery of an oviposition attractant for gravid malaria vectors of the Anopheles gambiae species complex. Malaria Journal, 14:119.
  • Okal, MN., Herrera-Varela, M., Ouma, P., Torto, B., Lindsay, SW., Lindh, JM, Fillinger, U. (2015). Analysing chemical attraction of gravid Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto with modified BG-Sentinel traps. Parasites and Vectors, 8:301.
  • Herrera-Varela M., Lindh J., Lindsay SW., Fillinger, U. (2014) Habitat discrimination by gravid Anopheles gambiae sensu lato – a push-pull system. Malaria Journal 13: 133
  • Herrera-Varela M, Orjuela LI, Peñalver C, Conn JE, Quiñones ML. (2014) Anopheles species composition explains differences in Plasmodium transmission in La Guajira, northern Colombia. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 109(7): 952-956

Countries Served In:

  • Colombia, Kenya, Peru
Manuela Herrera-Varela