Mosquito research really runs the gamut

|  November 13, 2019

As Old Man Winter makes his presence known throughout much of the country this week, we thought there was no better way to recall the halcyon days of summer than to round up three recent mosquito stories making headlines. Ready? Itchy? Good, let’s dig in:

1. Study: Giving mosquitoes insulin could halt the spread of disease.

Let’s start with some serious news. According to an article on Phys.org, researchers from Washington State University (among others) found that insulin administered to mosquitoes “has the potential to inhibit the spread of West Nile virus as well as Zika and dengue viruses.”

The study, published Nov. 12 in the journal Cell Reports, “demonstrated that mammalian insulin activated an antiviral immunity pathway in mosquitoes, increasing the insects’ ability to suppress the viruses.” The team’s takeaway is that if they can focus on providing mosquitoes with immunity, the insect population will carry less of the disease and therefore be less of a threat to humans.

2. Study: Using graphene to prevent mosquito bites.

“Can graphine help fight mosquito bites?” asks the headline of a recent article from Medical News Today. The answer is a cautious “yes,” it seems, as researchers from Brown University recently put it to the test. Their paper appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Graphene is already a superhero in the eyes of many scientists: Comprised of a single layer of carbon atoms, “it is stronger than steel, conducts heat and electricity incredibly efficiently, and is invisible to the naked eye.” It can also be easily added to fabric.

The researchers found that in the study, “when the skin remained uncovered or covered with only cheesecloth, mosquitoes bit between five and 20 times during the 5-minute trials. However, when they added graphene into the mix, the mosquitoes did not bite.” And it was more than just a physical shield: “The insects landed on the patch of skin less often when graphene was involved, and when they did land, they spent less time on the skin. Also, the insects did not appear to make any attempt to bite the participant.” The team theorizes that the graphene disguises the scent of human skin for the mosquitoes.

Before you start ordering your uniforms with a layer of graphene, however, know that getting the fabric wet with water or with human sweat made the graphene less effective (though still more effective than not using it).

3. Malaria-fighting mosquitoes.

Let’s end with a visual, with a “controversial experiment” in Italy, where they released genetically modified mosquitoes in a high-security lab. Italy was chosen because if the mosquitoes do leave the lab by some error, they cannot survive the climate, according to the NPR-exclusive video. The idea is that eventually, they can release these modified mosquitoes in sub-Saharan Africa to mate with the existing populations and thus bring down the threat of malaria. But some in the scientific community are concerned about the possible, unintended consequences this tangle with Mother Nature might hold. If you’re impatient, skip ahead to 4:40 to see a truly horrifying image of the mosquitoes in a swarm.

*FEATURED PHOTO: ISTOCK.COM/DOUG4537

This article is tagged with , and posted in Crawling the Web
Heather Gooch

About the Author:

Heather Gooch is the editor for PMP magazine. She can be reached at hgooch@northcoastmedia.net or 330-321-9754.

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