The largest genetic study of mosquitoes has found their ability to resist insecticides is evolving rapidly and spreading across Africa, putting millions of people at higher risk of contracting malaria.
British scientists who led the work said mosquitoes’ growing resistance to control tools such as insecticide-treated bed nets and insecticide spraying, which have helped cut malaria cases since 2000, now threatens “to derail malaria control” in Africa.
[R]esearchers sequenced the DNA of 765 wild Anopheles mosquitoes taken from 15 locations across eight African countries. Their work, published in the journal Nature on [November 29], created the largest data resource on natural genetic variation for any species of insect.
Analyzing the data, the scientists found that the Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes were extremely genetically diverse compared with most other animal species. This high genetic diversity enables rapid evolution, they said, and helps to explain how mosquitoes develop insecticide resistance so quickly.
The genome data also showed the rapid evolution insecticide resistance appeared to be due to many previously unknown genetic variants within certain genes.
“Global efforts to tackle malaria through effective vaccines, insecticides and the best drug combinations require urgent, united action by scientists, drug companies, governments and the WHO,” [said immunobiology expert Michael Chew].
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