Mosquitoes can be more than just a nuisance, as some can carry parasites and viruses like West Nile and dengue fever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mosquito-borne diseases cause around 725,000 deaths every year. Fortunately, there may be a solution to preventing these diseases altogether. Entomologist Naoki Yamanaka suggests chemically halting the maturation of mosquitoes. By preventing them from developing and mating, they won’t be able to spread viruses among humans. It’s an exciting possibility for improving public health.
Both insects and humans rely on steroid hormones for sexual maturation and reproduction. Insects, specifically, require ecdysone hormone for growth and maturation. Recent research suggests that for ecdysone to enter and exit cells, it requires a specific protein, which challenges previous assumptions.
There are four types of ecdysone transporters that fruit flies utilize to shuffle the hormones in and out of cells. Yamanaka found that mosquitoes only use three of the four proteins. The lack of this fourth protein is the key to potentially stopping mosquitoes’ growth cycles in their tracks. Scientists could create chemicals to target just these proteins, leaving other insects unaffected. This discovery opens the door to the creation of a mosquito-specific insecticide, allowing pollinators like bees to be left unharmed.
Looking to the future, we’re armed with a limited number of preventative measures to protect against mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) typically recommends wearing long sleeves, treating clothing and gear, and using a mosquito net while sleeping. In addition to these simple tasks, they also recommend using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–registered insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET. However, between these and insecticides that are prone to losing their potency, we could use more ways to protect humans against the virus-carrying mosquitoes. Through their research, Yamanaka believes they could create chemicals to halt the mosquito’s ecdysone transporters. Their lab is already working on the next steps. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll simply be able to freeze them in their growth cycle – they’ll never grow up.
With the right tools and vaccines, you can prevent yourself from contracting a mosquito-borne illness. Make sure you are prepared with Passport Health. Call 937-306-7541 or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing projects. Her site can be found here.