Chemistry of Mosquito Sex May Hold Key to Disease Control

Source of yellow fever, dengue targeted in search for insect 'birth control'

FRIDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists who've uncovered the chemistry of mosquito sex say their research may reveal ways to control mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and dengue fever.

The Cornell University team found that more than 100 proteins in the male sperm of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes -- known to transmit yellow fever and dengue fever -- permanently alter female mosquitoes' tendencies to feed, produce eggs and mate.

The study is the first to identify male proteins that are transferred to females during mating. By isolating these proteins, it may be possible to develop a method of birth control for female mosquitoes, and potentially help control the spread of diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever and West Nile virus, said the researchers.

Currently, there is no effective treatment for dengue fever, a sometimes deadly infection suffered by millions of people worldwide each year.

"This is an exciting new avenue for identifying ultimate targets to reduce mosquito vector populations. Ultimately, we plan to select the most promising candidate proteins as chemical targets or as a focus for the development of other methods for vector control," study co-author Laura Harrington, an associate professor of entomology, said in a Cornell news release.

The study was published online March 16 in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about vector-borne infectious diseases.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Cornell University, news release, March 16, 2011

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