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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Researchers aim to curb spread of mosquito diseases

Kyle Wasson
Kyle Wasson/Arizona Summer Wildcat Jun Isoe, an assistant research scientist in chemistry and biochemistry, works in the lab last week.

UA researchers are working to turn the tables on mosquitoes by developing an insecticide that could make it harmful for them to consume blood.

During the recent merge of the university’s biochemistry and chemistry departments, professors Roger Miesfeld and Jon Njardarson teamed up to continue developments on Miesfeld’s six-year mosquito research.

Miesfeld and Njardarson, along with research intern Daniel Mack and assistant research scientist Jun Isoe, are working toward creating an insecticide harmful only to blood-sucking mosquitoes.

The purpose of the research is to find a way, through drugs, to block the blood-sucking mosquitoes’ ability to digest a blood meal. Ideally, the drugs would be administered to people in countries where Dengue virus and malaria are prominent.

Once a mosquito has bitten someone who has been treated, the drugs would disrupt the mosquito’s digestion. Once the process of blood digestion is disrupted, the mosquito will have a hard time completing the egg production cycle, according to Miesfeld.

One goal in targeting mosquitoes is to ensure that the chemical they create does not harm “good” insects, such as honeybees, Miesfeld said.

“We are now in the process of actually finding chemicals,” he added. “Taking it to the next step.”

The bottom line, according to Miesfeld, is that mosquitoes are much more than pests, but “biological vectors of human disease.”

Dengue fever has become a problem in northern Mexico, and has the potential to spread farther into the region, and could even reach Arizona. The virus has the ability to make a person very sick and could even cause death in some situations, Miesfeld said.

An infected mosquito poses as a threat if it comes into contact with blood. If an uninfected mosquito bites an infected person, then bites another person, the disease spreads. Miesfeld said the Dengue virus takes 10 days to work its way through the mosquito’s body.

However, only a fraction of the nearly 3,500 species of mosquitoes can transmit diseases, according to Isoe. The Dengue virus has spread rapidly in highly populated areas in the last decade. This is partly because there is a stable increase in the population of mosquitoes, Isoe said.

Miesfeld said that they are publishing a paper describing the collaboration on the mosquito research.

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