This research helps medical entomologists and doctors understand why certain infectious diseases occur in parts of the world but not in others depending on the presence of the disease-transmitting mosquito strains.
In a paper published in the February issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Dr. Dina Fonseca and her team identified different strains of the southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus). Until now, researchers were unaware that this one species of mosquito could have consistent variations in its genetic makeup and that the geographical distribution of the mosquito variants explained the occurrence of serious diseases. The diseases include elephantiasis (a disfiguring disease), West Nile virus and other encephalitides, avian malaria and poxvirus. "The surprising thing is that there is actually structure in this mosquito. Researchers had thought that all populations of this mosquito were the same," explained Fonseca, who was the first to examine the genetic makeup of this important disease transmitter.
Fonseca is Assistant Curator of The Academy of Natural Sciences' Patrick Center for Environmental Research and Research Associate with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
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