Few things sting like a mosquito's bite--especially if that bite carries a disease such as malaria, yellow fever, Dengue fever or West Nile virus. But if researchers from The University of Arizona in Tucson have their way, one day mosquito bites may prove deadly to the mosquitoes as well.
"Our goal is to turn the female mosquito's blood meal into the last meal she ever eats," said project leader Roger L. Miesfeld, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics in UA's College of Science and a member of BIO5 and the Arizona Cancer Center.
Other UA researchers involved with the project include Patricia Y. Scaraffia, Guanhong Tan, Jun Isoe, BIO5 member Vicki H. Wysocki, and the late Michael A. Wells.
These researchers have discovered that one particular mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, has a surprisingly complex metabolic pathway, one that requires its members to excrete toxic nitrogen after gorging on human blood. If the mosquitoes fail to do so, they'll also fail to lay eggs--and will likely sicken and die.
Scaraffia, a research assistant professor in UA's department of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and the other members of the team published their findings in the January 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Miesfeld and his colleagues are seeking a molecule that is harmless to humans, but will gum up the works of mosquito metabolism, forcing the mosquitoes to hang onto the nitrogen. Such a molecule would kill both the mosquitoes and their would-be progeny--thus slowing the spread of disease.
Once found, this molecule--and similar molecules aimed at other mosquito species--could be developed into an insecticide and sprayed in places where mosquitoes congregate, such as around water and on mosquito netting.
The researchers also envision developing an oral insecticide--a mosquito-slaying pill
|Contact: Deborah Daun|
University of Arizona