It’s that time of year again and if you’re like me, you’ve been into the woods already and forgot how pesty these little dudes can be. My reminder? I’m itching the heck out of my legs this week. Yours is below. – Tony
Mosquitoes suck. Literally.
In the U.S. they’re responsible for making you itch and for carrying West Nile virus, which can be life-threatening if you have a compromised immune system or are an infant with a not-yet developed one.
But in much of the undeveloped world mosquitoes kill with great regularity, since they often carry malaria, which afflicts more than 225 million people worldwide and kills nearly 800,000 each year, many of whom are children living in Africa. Luckily the future holds some great promise — that’s the overwhelming message of this month’s very busy mosquito beat.
Just last week, researchers at Johns Hopkins identified a bacterium in wild mosquitoes that stops the development of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) by activating the insect’s immune system. Called the Enterobacter bacterium, it’s part of the naturally occurring microbial flora of a mosquito’s gut and, when present, kills the parasite by producing free radicals.
The researchers believe this finding may explain why mosquitoes of the same species differ in resistance to the parasite and hope to apply this knowledge in the field — for instance, by exposing mosquitoes in the field to the bacterium. Deeper dive here.
Also, earlier this month a group of British and American scientists reported in the journal Nature that scientists are one step closer to changing the DNA in wild mosquitoes to one day eradicate malaria. They were able to successfully pair genetically modified, malaria-resistant mosquitoes (created last year by different research groups) with wild, non-malarial-resistant mosquitoes and the offspring remained modded to resist the disease.
Ideally, this means releasing the pests with malarial resistant genes could help prevent mosquitoes from spreading it. However, gene-modified anything in the wild is always a little disturbing…see every science fiction movie from the 1950′s.
Source: Adventure Journal