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Mosquito parasite may help fight dengue fever
Date:4/30/2009

Green to pipe the data to a cluster of workstations to track the insects' movements and analyse their activity levels.

After a year of experimental design, data collection and analysis, it was clear that the infected mosquitoes were more active than the uninfected insects. Most surprisingly, as the mosquitoes aged and the infection took hold, it did not increase their activity levels further.

Having found that the insects became more active in response to their bacterial lodgers, Craig Franklin joined the team to help measure the insects' CO2 production to find how their metabolic rates respond to the parasite. Again, the insects' metabolic rates were higher than those of the uninfected mosquitoes.

So why are the infected insects more active than the uninfected insects? McGraw says there are three possible explanations; the insects are living fast and dying young; the insects are hungrier and consume more energy in their constant search for food; or the bacteria somehow affect the insects' tissues to change their behaviour and increase their metabolic rate. McGraw suspects that the last explanation is the most likely.

Having shown that the activity levels of Wolbachia infected mosquitoes respond to the bacterium, McGraw and O'Neill are continuing to test how the infection affects the insects' biting behaviour and whether a Wolbachia infection can become established in Ae. aegypti populations to limit their lifespans. Ultimately, McGraw and O'Neill hope to release infected mosquitoes into afflicted regions of the world to limit dengue fever transmission, but only once they are sure that the insects will do no harm to the environment.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-122-342-5525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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