Smaller mosquitoes are more likey to be infected with viruses causing human diseases

November 3, 2008

An entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, a division of the new UI Institute for Natural Resource Sustainability, says smaller mosquitoes are more likely to be infected with viruses that cause diseases in humans. These findings can be found in the November issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Barry Alto, Ph.D., Director of the Medical Entomology Program at the Illinois Natural History Survey, along with Assistant Professor Michael Reiskind of Oklahoma State University and Professor L. Philip Lounibos of the University of Florida fed mosquitoes blood with dengue virus and later tested them for infection. The research was conducted at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. The researchers painstakingly took into account the size of each mosquito by measuring the length of their wings. Smaller-sized mosquitoes had higher infection and potential to transmit dengue virus than larger individuals. However, Alto warns there are other components, such as adult longevity, host preference, and feeding frequency, that determine a mosquito's vectoring ability which still need to be taken into account in future studies.

The Asian tiger and yellow fever mosquitoes are the two main transmitters of dengue virus, the mosquito-borne virus of greatest importance to human health. Both of these mosquitoes are found throughout the world including the U.S. The ferocious tiger mosquito invaded Illinois in the 1990s. Now researchers have shown that only slight differences in the body sizes of these mosquitoes drastically alter their potential to transmit viruses causing human disease.

What's more surprising is that the effects were consistent for the two mosquito species.

Results of this study have important implications for mosquito control strategies and evaluation of disease risk for dengue. Competition among the larvae of container-breeding mosquitoes results in smaller sized adults. However, control strategies (e.g., larvacides) release surviving larvae from competition, resulting in the production of larger adult mosquitoes. Thus, a benefit of control strategies may be the production of larger, less competent adult mosquitoes in terms of infection, potentially mitigating dengue transmission. These results have the potential to provide information on disease risk and aid in control efforts of the diseases that mosquitoes transmit.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore further: Scientists create malaria-blocking mosquitoes

Related Stories

Scientists create malaria-blocking mosquitoes

November 23, 2015

Using a groundbreaking gene editing technique, University of California scientists have created a strain of mosquitoes capable of rapidly introducing malaria-blocking genes into a mosquito population through its progeny, ...

Understanding the fruit fly's nose

November 24, 2015

How odours influence actions is one of the fundamental questions in neuroscience. Richard Benton, associate professor at the Center for Integrative Genomics at the University of Lausanne, follows the molecular trail of chemical ...

Researchers compare 'natural' mosquito repellents to DEET

October 28, 2015

Every summer while preparing for long weekends at our family cabin in the north woods of Minnesota, we'd face the same dilemmas. What food should we bring? Is SPF 50 sunscreen enough protection? And, most importantly, which ...

Scientists take aim at disease-carrying 'kissing bug'

November 18, 2015

An international research team, including scientists from Simon Fraser University, hopes its study of the vector Rhodnius prolixus—also known as the "kissing bug" and a major contributor to Chagas disease —will further ...

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.