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Manipulating mosquitoes with light
July 2, 2017, 2:14 pm
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Scientists at the University of Notre Dame in the US have found that exposure to just 10 minutes of light at night suppresses biting and manipulates flight behavior in the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, the major vector for transmission of malaria in Africa.

Critical behaviors exhibited by the species, such as feeding, egg laying and flying, are time-of-day specific, including a greater propensity for nighttime biting. A recent report from the World Health Organization stated an estimated 212 million people worldwide are infected with the malarial disease, resulting in 429,000 deaths — mostly children.

Insecticide-treated bed nets and walls have helped prevent bites and reduce malaria, but researchers say mosquitoes are adapting to preventive conditions, leaving adults and children vulnerable in the early evening and early morning hours, when they are not under the nets or in the house.

For their study, the research team tested the mosquitoes' preference to bite during their active host-seeking period by separating them into multiple control and test batches. Control mosquitoes were kept in the dark, while test batches were exposed to a pulse of white light for 10 minutes. Researchers then tested the propensity of the mosquitoes to bite immediately after the pulse and every two hours throughout the night, holding their arms to a mesh lining that allowed uninfected mosquitoes to feed while remaining contained. Results indicated a significant suppression. In another experiment, mosquitoes were pulsed with light every two hours, and using this multiple pulse approach the team found that biting could be suppressed during a large portion of the 12-hour night.

Researchers believe that pulses of light are more effective than constant exposure, as the mosquitoes would be less likely to adapt to light presented in periodic doses. The research team is testing the effectiveness of different wavelengths of light, such as red light, that would be less disturbing to adults and children while they sleep, with an aim toward developing field-applicable solutions.


 

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