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Mosquito Renal Failure

December 27, 2013

Researchers are trying to develop new insecticides that target mosquitoes’ urinary function.



Jamming mosquitoes’ plumbing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Mosquito Susanne Bard

(Photo: Susanne Bard)

Many mosquitoes are now resistant to common insecticides, which typically attack the nervous system. So entomologist Peter Piermarini of The Ohio State University has set sights on a different target: the mosquitoes’ urinary system. He explains that in a single bite, a mosquito can suck up 2 to 3 times its body mass in blood. That puts tremendous stress on its body.

PETER PIERMARINI (The Ohio State University):

And part of the response to this stress is to start excreting urine on the host. So as they’re sucking your blood, at the same time they’re urinating on you.

His team’s looking for molecules that block that process – for instance, by targeting tiny channels that let out excess potassium. In a preliminary study, the mosquitoes swelled up like balloons before they died. The trick is to tailor the molecules so they affect only mosquitoes, not other creatures. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.