Public Release: 

Genetic study sheds light on how mosquitoes transmit malaria

Simon Fraser University

An international research team, including researchers from Simon Fraser University, has determined the genetic sequencing of 16 mosquitoes (Anopheles genus)--the sole carriers of human malaria--providing new insight into how they adapt to humans as primary hosts of the disease.

Their findings have been published in the Science Express, an electronic publication of selected papers of the prestigious journal Science.

SFU mathematician Cedric Chauve and his student, Ashok Rajaraman, used computational methods to reconstruct ancestral mosquito genomes and analyze their chromosomal evolution over the past hundred million years. Their hope is to understand how chromosomes evolved and to unravel potential adaptation mechanisms that may be related to malaria transmission. They also hope to determine the genetic differences between these species and others that are merely bothersome and not toxic.

While only mosquitoes belonging to the Anopheles genus species transmit human malaria, not all species within the genus, or even all members of each vector species, are efficient malaria carriers. "This suggests an underlying genetic/genomic plasticity that results in a variation of key traits determining transmission capacity within the genus," says Chauve.

He adds: "This is a very exciting project because there is no way we could sequence the genomes of long-dead ancestral mosquitoes species, without precious data from current species that was supplied by the biological team."

The multidisciplinary team consisted of over 100 biologists, immunologists, infectious disease specialists, computational mathematicians and geneticists from around the world.

While advances in malaria control have met with successes, the sequencing of these 16 new genomes will contribute to further understanding the genomic adaptability of mosquitoes in transmitting malaria.

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Chauve's research was funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant and through a scholarship to Rajaraman from the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) International Graduate Training Centre (IGTC) in Mathematical Biology. See full text article for complete list of additional support.

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university--to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities--Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby--SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.

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