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17 October 2018 
 

Fighting the killer mosquitoes

 

Issue 8 Ė June 2013
A prick to the skin, a scratchy red swelling and possibly even a serious illness, these are the first signs of a mosquito attack in which human blood is sucked up to develop its fertile eggs. When the female mosquito lays eggs, it needs more protein supplies which can only be obtained by sucking a hostís blood. When the mosquito sucks blood it also injects a combination of saliva and anticoagulant compounds into the blood which may contain infecting elements. However the process of attraction begins long before the landing. Mosquitoes can smell their dinner from an impressive distance of up to 50 metres. Mosquitoes are important vehicles in the transmission of some animal diseases. These small creatures can easily transmit viruses or parasites from animal to animal, from animals to people and from person to person without being affected by the symptoms of the disease. The insectís body recognises the virus or parasite as a foreign intruder and chops off its genetic coding, rendering it harmless to itself. Scientists know that genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. Theyíve also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skinís surface, make mosquitoes flock closer. Fredros Okumu a scientist from the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, has designed a mosquito killing trap using the rancid smell of human feet, collected on sock pads worn by local soccer players. Okumu who has lost family members to malaria, hopes that if this method is used in tandem with mosquito nets and insect repellents, it will dramatically reduce the number of mosquito bites. mosquitoes had been genetically modified to be sterile, so that when they mated with the indig-enous female mosquitoes there would be no offspring. The company released millions of mutant mosquitoes into a 40-acre area of the Cayman Islands, 3 times a week from May to October 2010. By August the same year the population of mosquitoes had dropped by 80%.Australian scientists, meanwhile, have developed a new strategy involving use of a bacterium which naturally infects many insect species and has the ability to interfere with its hostís reproductive characterisation. When mosquitoes are infected by these bacteria, their ability to transmit dengue virus is almost completely blocked. Mosquito borne diseases like malaria, dengue and West Nile, kill more people than any other disease in the world and more than 700 million are affected worldwide. Nearly a million people die from malaria each year, of which more than 85% happen to be in Africa: this equates to one fatality every 30 seconds. A large parasite prevalence survey showed that out 1.38 billion people at risk of stable malaria, 0.69 billion were found in Central and South East Asia, 0.66 billion in Africa, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, and 0.04 billion in the Americas. This means that a large portion of the Muslim population worldwide is at risk of being affected by this deadly disease. Some Islamic organisations have been helping to control mosquito borne diseases in Africa and Asia. They have managed to launch malaria treatment and prevention projects focussing on pregnant women and children under five. Their aim is to reduce the rate of infant mortality and decrease malaria and anaemia cases among pregnant women in regions such as the Blue Nile State of Sudan, the Afder zone of Ethiopia and the Warrap region of Kenya.In the meantime the challenge for scientists is also to find similar low risk ways of controlling malaria. ē ... read more