New UK Research Hopes To Eliminate Mosquitoes

Enjoying the outdoors during the spring and summer months typically goes hand in hand with a few mosquito bites and it's unavoidable here in the Bluegrass.

But, a new kind of research at the University of Kentucky may help cut down on the pest altogether.

By the end of the summer, many of us will have had our fair share of encounters with mosquitoes that have spoiled our backyard picnics. But researchers in the UK College of Agriculture are hoping they have discovered a secret weapon to battle and eventually wipe-out many notorious species.

Stephen Dobson and his research team have collected male versions of the Asian Tiger mosquito, a mosquito that we are likely to come in contact with each summer. They see potential in future generations that could help control the most destructive species of these insects here in Kentucky.

Dobson says his secret weapon is a bacteria called wolbachia that some mosquitoes already carry. By harnessing it, they can infect some of the male mosquitoes so that when they mate with a female their eggs will not hatch.

"Instead of you having to find where these mosquitoes are breeding and trying to treat them, they are delivering themselves and mating with the females and you end up with eggs that don't hatch and the population goes down," says Dobson.

Dobson says "what we want to do is to develop a tool that allows you to essentially release male mosquitoes which don't bite, and transmit diseases."

Essentially, these UK researchers hope to eventually eliminate specific populations that carry deadly diseases which yearly result in deaths throughout the world.

Dobson's team has attracted funding for their work through grants from the Bill and Malinda Gates foundation and the National Institute of Health.

They are also closely working with colleagues in Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan.

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