Everyone knows that mosquitoes bite, but did you know that some species are a bit more selective? The mosquito Wyeomyia smithii can be found in the eastern United States, but only the ones that live south of North Carolina will bite in order to feast on blood. Mosquitoes of the same species that live in more northern areas don’t bite. It’s possible that understanding why could help combat the spread of malaria and save millions of lives.
By studying the genetic makeup of these mosquitoes, researchers are hoping to isolate the gene responsible for the non-biting behavior of the northern insects. It’s a pretty interesting process, too. They’ve found that there are about 3,000 genes that are different between mosquitoes in the two regions, and they are working to analyze each and every one to try to pinpoint the culprit. They’ll do this by disrupting gene expression on individual genes to find out which one is actually responsible for the behavior. If they can do this, the hope is that they can create a gene inhibitor that can turn biting mosquitoes into non-biting mosquitoes.
Pretty amazing. In 2013, it’s estimated that 584,000 people died from malaria. Hopefully that gives you an idea of just what kind of impact this research could have on the efforts to stop the spread of malaria worldwide. Read more about this amazing research here.