Some people tend to be the targets of mosquitoes more than others. A new study titled, ‘Improved reference genome of Aedes aegypti informs arbovirus vector control’, by researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has found that the genetic make-up of these individuals make them attractive to mosquitoes and so they get bitten more.
Doctor Gordana Rasic, one of the team of researchers said that they have identified “several new genes” that could predict if a person is more attractive to mosquito bites. She said that once they can put their finger on the exact genes that prompt the mosquitoes to bite a person and the genes that repel a mosquito, they can figure out how to suppress the former genes to make a person stop from being bitten.
The team was also looking at the genomes of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry viruses like Zika and dengue. They noted that some mosquitoes had certain genes that could make them resistant to the mosquito repellents. Modification of these resistant genes may help stop the mosquitoes from spreading disease, the researchers hope. Dr. Rasic said, “One of the key things that we want to achieve is to modify these mosquitoes in a way that will help control them.”
Aedes aegypti mosquito on human skin. Image Credit: khlungcenter / Shutterstock
Mosquito bites are known to spread several life-threatening diseases including malaria, dengue, chikungunya, zika etc. Zika alone affects around 86 countries and regions around the world and can affect pregnant mothers and severely harm the unborn babies. Dengue too is a viral infection carried by mosquitoes that causes deadly hemorrhagic fever or fever along with very low platelet counts that can cause spontaneous bleeding. Malaria is a parasitic infection that still manages to kill hundreds of thousands around the world.
At present researchers are aiming at genetically modifying mosquito populations so that they can be controlled. Some approaches include spreading mosquitoes with special bacterial infections that can render them infertile and stop them from multiplying.