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The kiss of death: Research targets lethal disease spread by insect that bites lips
Date:4/29/2010

t pest control methods need to target only one out of eight stages (when you include both sexes). But in kissing bugs, each sex feeds on blood through all fives stages of development. "So you have about a ten-fold greater chance of infection just because of the number of times that these insects have to feed," says Paluzzi.

His research focuses on insect diuresismore specifically, the genes and peptides that control how the kissing bug eliminates excess fluid in its gut after it gorges on blood. For the insect, the real prize in its meal is the red blood cells, while the water and salt is "excess baggage". After they feed, the bugs are bloated and sluggish, and must jettison the waste so they can make their escape.

Here's how it happens: when the kissing bug finds a snoozing victim and feeds, its levels of serotonin and diuretic hormones rise sharply, targeting the insect's midgut and Malpighian tubules (the equivalent of kidneys), and triggering the release of waste. About four hours later, a peptide named CAP2b is released in the insect's gut, abolishing the effect of the diuretic hormones.

Paluzzi has identified two genes (RhoprCAPA-alpha and RhoprCAPA-beta) that carry the chemical recipe for the peptides that stop diuresis. With that information, he hopes to create a peptide "agonist"something that would enhance the activity of the CAP2B peptide and prevent the insect from leaving waste (and the parasite) on the wound. In theory, says Paluzzi, this might be an insecticide-like room spray or topical lotion that is biologically stable and has no effect on humans or other insects. Paluzzi is collaborating with a structural biochemist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in Texas, with the ultimate goal of creating a pest control solution, but he cautions that a market-ready product is many years away.


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Contact: Nicolle Wahl
nicolle.wahl@utoronto.ca
905-569-4656
University of Toronto
Source:Eurekalert  

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The kiss of death: Research targets lethal disease spread by insect that bites lips
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