Control mosquitoes by demobilizing their sperm
About the episode
Mosquitoes can transmit all kinds of nasty diseases. Everyone knows malaria, but the mosquito family in our own home, garden and kitchen can also transmit West Nile virus, African horse sickness, Rift Valley fever and encephalitis to us.
Mosquitoes also have their own important place in ecosystems, but if we had more control over certain populations, we would also have more control over the number of people who die from any of the diseases that mosquitoes can transmit.
So researchers around the world are working on all sorts of solutions. In California, they attack the root, or rather: the seed. When mosquitoes mate, they do so tail to tail. Thus, the males bring the sperm into the reproductive tract of the females. It can survive there for a while, but eventually the cells still have to swim a bit.
In order to be able to move, the tails of the sperm need to be activated and this is done with the help of special proteins. They have now discovered exactly what they are looking for. And yes: for this they first had to get enough seeds from their tiny breeding channels with at least 200 mosquitoes.
Experiments are still underway to find a way to deactivate these proteins in some of the male mosquitoes, so that they become sterile. In this way, the researchers hope to be able to control mosquito populations without having to completely eradicate the animals.
They hope the finding will also be of interest to other mosquito species such as the malaria mosquito and perhaps even to research into human fertility.
Read more about research here: Humans retaliate by deactivating mosquito sperm.
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