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New type of mosquito found

8th February 2011

Researchers at the Pasteur Institute working in Burkina Faso are studying a sub-Saharan African mosquito which may be new to science.

MosquitoThe mosquito looks different from other mosquitoes, which biologists and populations know well from their decades of research on the disease.

It may represent a new species that has been ignored by scientists so far.

The species, notably, passes malaria much more easily than do the other species of mosquito in sub-Saharan Africa.

It was found to be 57% prevalent in the initial study.

And if the mosquito's genome is part of the reason why malaria is so hard to eradicate, the discovery may make it easier for scientists designing cures.

Vector biologist Ken Vernick of the Institut Pasteur said he believed that scientists needed to rethink how they applied vector control in the fight against malaria.

Researchers and health workers who study malaria use insecticides to kill the insects.

Malaria is actually caused by a parasite that lives in the mosquito.

The disease is devastating, claiming more than 750,000 lives a year. Most of the people who die from malaria are children.

Vernick said that the applicability of the result depended on the amount of contribution this new mosquito made to actual malaria transmission.

He said that, however, it may partly explain why scientists saw variable results in different places.

Carolina Barillas Mury, a biologist at the National Institutes of Health who specialises in the vector transmission of disease, said she believed the paper was thought-provoking.

She said that if the research turned out to be true, it would mean that there might be other mosquitoes in the area which were not being found by scientists.

Tovi Lehmann, a researcher at the (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) NIAID laboratory, was not sure how to explain the fact that the mosquito had been missed there.

For the study, Vernick and his microbiologist colleagues collected many mosquito larvae and live mosquitoes.

The researchers found that certain of the mosquitoes belonged to a different clade than the one usually studied.

A clade is the genetic equivalent of a 'species'.

The clade seemed to avoid outdoor spaces, as well as being well-adapted to indoor life.

When the researchers had finished capturing a population of both types of organism, they tested them for malaria resistance.

The researchers concluded that 58% of the un-studied variety had contracted malaria.

On the other hand, 35% of the known variety failed to resist infection by the organism that causes malaria.

Vernick said that the finding raised concerns about local science efforts.


 

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