Thursday, January 01, 2009

Shortening the lives of mosquitoes

Well, this is encouraging.
WASHINGTON - Old mosquitoes usually spread disease, so Australian researchers figured out a way to make the pests die younger — naturally, not poisoned.


Once a mosquito encounters dengue or malaria, it takes roughly two weeks of incubation before the insect can spread that pathogen by biting someone, meaning older mosquitoes are the more dangerous ones.

The Australian scientists knew that one type of fruit fly often is infected with a strain of bacterial parasite that cuts its lifespan in half.

So they infected the mosquito species that spreads dengue fever — called Aedes aegypti — with that fruit-fly parasite, breeding several generations in a tightly controlled laboratory.

Voila: Mosquitoes born with the parasite lived only 21 days — even in cozy lab conditions — compared to 50 days for regular mosquitoes, University of Queensland biologist Scott O'Neill reported in the journal Science.

Let's hope this pans out. Mosquitoes are a species with nothing going for them as far as the human condition is concerned. They spread diseases, and their eradication can save a lot of lives. If we can't do it with pesticides, this way sounds promising.

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