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Mosquitoes, Mating & Malaria

March 2, 2015

The mating habits of malarial mosquitoes may help spread the disease.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sam Cotton Anopheles gambiae during mating male left female right

Anopheles gambiae during mating. (© Sam Cotton)

Sex and the single mosquito. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Malaria infects hundreds of millions of people every year, and kills more than half a million. Now, researchers have discovered that mosquitoes have evolved mating strategies that actually help the malaria parasite spread between people. Harvard School of Public Health researcher Sara Mitchell and her colleagues found that in species best known for transmitting malaria, males transfer a suite of chemicals to the female during mating, including a hormone called 20-E. Mitchell says 20-E increases the female’s egg production, susceptibility to the malaria parasite, and longevity, all of which influence her ability to spread the disease.

SARA MITCHELL (Harvard School of Public Health):

So if we can perhaps inhibit the pathways that these male traits are inducing, we can perhaps inhibit malaria transmission, and we think that this is something that is very achievable.

HIRSHON:

The researchers published their findings in the journal Science. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.