Infecting Mosquitoes Before They Infect Us
[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Mosquitoes carry nasty diseases—dengue fever, West Nile, malaria. But the microbes that cause those diseases don’t attach themselves to the mosquitoes and then immediately latch onto their next victim. They need time to grow and replicate in the mosquito before migrating to the bug’s salivary glands. For example, the dengue fever virus takes about two weeks to incubate.
So researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia and Central China Normal University are looking at a way to shorten the lives of mosquitoes—and thus curtail their disease-transmitting ability.
Researchers worked with a bacterial parasite called <i>Wolbachia</i> that infects numerous insect species. They spent three years adapting it to infect the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue fever. It cut the lives of the mosquitoes by more than half. Those results were reported in the January 2nd issue of the journal <i>Science</i>. The scientists say that because <i>Wolbachia</i> shortens a mosquito’s life, the insects are that much less likely to pass on the diseases they carry. So a relatively inexpensive and effective human disease prevention program could be to mass-infect mosquitoes with <i>Wolbachia</i>. Which should make the medical community buzz.
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