Science-- there's something for everyone

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blocking mosquito pee to save lives

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are major carriers of disease. They can transmit Dengue and yellow fevers, among other illnesses. They do this by picking up the viral pathogens from an infected person during a blood meal, and transferring the viruses to the next person at a subsequent blood meal. OK, I knew all that.

Here’s what I did not know: apparently, the mosquitoes have to urinate as they feed in order to balance both their salt and fluid levels, and their flight ballast. That just makes the thought of getting mosquito bites so much more pleasant.

There’s some good news though. Researchers from Cornell University have found a protein in the skeeter’s renal tubes that is critical for urination. When this protein is blocked, the insects’ ability to pee is adversely affected. The scientists hope that this will also prevent the mosquitoes from leaving infected patients and transmitting diseases.