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article imageUnderstanding mosquito feeding, to avoid disease spread

By Tim Sandle     Nov 10, 2014 in Science
Biologists have discovered that mosquitoes bite male birds twice as often as they bite females. The same is true with people: mosquitoes bite men more often than women. Knowing this could help to stop the insects from spreading viruses to people.
Mosquitoes spread a number of viral and parasitic diseases. They are, primarily:
Malaria
Chikungunya
Dog Heartworm
Dengue
Yellow Fever
Eastern Equine Encephalitis
St. Louis Encephalitis
LaCrosse Encephalitis
Western Equine Encephalitis
West Nile Virus
These represent major global health hazards, so understanding more about mosquito behaviour is of importance.
Research has revealed that mosquitoes bite male birds 64 percent of the time, compared to 36 percent for females. Until the recent study this pattern was suspected; however, there was no concrete data. The same pattern can be seen with mosquitoes biting people. One study showed that the human malaria parasite can be found five times more often in men than women in China.
To demonstrate the connection, researchers visited a swamp near Tampa. Here they to collected hundreds of females of three mosquito species. The mosquitoes retained blood in their digestive system, with the blood coming from the last creature that they bit.
The mosquitoes were individually crushed and the blood was extracted from their guts. Samples of the blood were then screened and this genetic process was able to show the animal that the mosquitoes had bitten. The tests were also able to determine the gender of the animal that had been bitten.
Knowing the variations in the biting of males and females could be the basis for new strategies for interrupting disease transmission. For example, with people variations in gender and age of people could be combated using different strategies. For example, the use of different repellents, or by altering work and non-work patterns and or by modifying the living environment. There could, for example, be something about the behavior of men that is different from women.
The findings have been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, in a paper titled “Sex-biased avian host use by arbovirus vectors.”
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