Friday, May 8, 2009

Using Parasite to Shorten Mosquito Lifespan

Wolbachia pipientis is a bacterial parasite that infects insects and shorten its host's lifespan. Researchers have recently been able to infect a certain species of mosquito with this parasite in the hopes that it will limit the transmission of diseases which mosquitoes carry, such as Dengue fever. Dengue fever is a tropical, viral disease that can infect a person multiple times because (unlike orthopox viruses) previous exposure to a different strain of the virus does not provide immunity against future infections.

Studies show that mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia parasite show increased activity and a markedly higher metabolic rate. Researchers postulate that the bacteria somehow affects the tissues (via protein expression) that modulate the behavior of the mosquitoes. More research is necessary to fully characterize the physiological and behavioral changes brought on by the parasite before the decision to release the parasite into the general mosquito population is made. If infected mosquitoes present no adverse effects to the environment or human population, this approach to vector control can have significant impact in the fight against other insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria.



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