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60 Malaria-Transmitting Mosquito Species Identified

A genetic study has revealed that not every mosquito but only 60 species of mosquitoes have evolved to better spreading malaria parasite out of 450 different species. These are genetically better at transmitting malaria than even some of their close cousins, the study said.

The study may advance understanding about the biological differences between mosquitoes that transmit malaria, and ultimately, how species might be more precisely controlled to stop transmission.

“With the availability of genome sequences from Anopheles mosquitoes of divergent lineages, we now have the opportunity to significantly improve our understanding of these important malaria vectors and develop new strategies to combat malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases,” explained Zhijian Tu, professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Of about 450 different species of mosquitoes in the Anopheles genus, only about 60 can transmit the Plasmodium malaria parasite that is harmful to people.

The team chose 16 mosquito species that are currently found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, but evolved from the same ancestor approximately 100 million years ago.

Today, the 16 species have varying capabilities for transmitting malaria and adapting to new environments. The researchers sequenced their genomes to better understand the evolutionary science behind the differences.

In a second related study, researchers found that the most dangerous species, Anopheles gambiae, is able to increase its transmission capabilities by swapping genes at the chromosome level.

A genetic process called introgression, where genes from one species flow into another, plays a role in evolution, in this case by enhancing the capacity of mosquitoes to transmit the malaria parasite, the findings suggested.

The research in the second paper was led by Matthew Hahn, professor at Indiana University.

Both the studies appeared in the journal Science. (IANS)

One comment

  1. Dear Author,
    Thank you for the news article. The original news release provided by Virginia Tech (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/vt-mam112514.php)
    included the correct attribution of the lead authors of the two Science papers: “The research (referring to the first paper) was led by Daniel Neafsey, a scientist with the Broad Institute; Robert Waterhouse, a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Nora Besansky, a professor from the University of Notre Dame.”, and “The research in the second paper was led by Matthew Hahn, a professor of biology and informatics at Indiana University, and Besansky.” We just want to point this out to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

    Zhijian Tu and Igor Sharakhov
    Virginia Tech

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