Monday, March 1, 2010

A Bug's Death

A bacterial strain of Wolbachia has been adapted to infect the mosquito vector that transmits dengue virus to humans. The bacterial infections (red) are only transmitted through females to offspring, and cut mosquito life span by up to 50%. This may block disease transmission to humans.

One way to shorten mosquito lifespans is to infect them with the bacterium, Wolbachia. In the laboratory, infection with this bacterium halved the lifespan of the insects, potentially reducing the spread of diseases like Dengue fever and Malaria that must incubate in the mosquitoes for two weeks or so.

This is relatively recent work and was reported in the journal Science at the start of last year: Stable Introduction of a Life-Shortening Wolbachia Infection into the Mosquito Aedes aegypti. There is also an editorial summary: Mosquitoes cut short.

For a different approach, and some interesting ethical questions, consider Olivia Judson's article
A Bug's Death in the New York Times.

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