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New hope in filariasis battle

12th October 2010

Researchers in the United States say they have cracked the genome of a mosquito that causes roundworm, paving the way for potential news ways to fight mosquito-borne diseases.

Mosquito

Scientists reported the breakthrough with the completion of the sequencing for the genome of Culex quinquefasciatus in the journal Science earlier this month.

The genomes of species from all three major groups of mosquitoes have now been sequenced.

Researchers now expect to begin comparing them in the hope of finding new ways to cut the transmission of mosquito-borne disease.

Roundworms transmitted by the Culex group of mosquito species cause lymphatic filariasis in tropical and subtropical regions, as well as West Nile virus and St Louis encephalitis in North America.

Study lead author Peter Arensburger of the University of California, Riverside, said it would now be possible to see which genes were shared by the major disease-carrying mosquitoes, and how they differed from each other.

The genome for the malaria-carrying Anopheles gambiae was sequenced in 2002, while that of Aedes aegypti, which spreads dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya, was completed in 2007.

The Culex group of mosquitoes includes more than 1,200 species, and is one of the most widely distributed in the world.

Researchers said they had already spotted a key difference; that Culex's genome contains 19,000 genes, more than other species groups.

That represent one fifth more than the genes carried by A. aegypti and half as many again as A. gambiae. In is believed that some of the additional genes make it possible for the mosquito to feed on a variety of animals.

Arensburger said that some of the Culex genes could also help the mosquitoes to develop pesticide resistance.

He said the most immediate benefits from the research would come in the form of pesticides that were better able to fight the mosquitoes, possibly by changing their genetic structure to make them unable to carry disease.

It might also pave the way for research into future vaccines.

But Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, a molecular microbiologist at Johns Hopkins University said it could be 20 years before new solutions are fully tested and implemented.


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