Researchers have identified a gene that makes someone more likely to be bitten by a mosquito.
Gordana Rasic of the QIMR Berghofer medical research institute in Brisbane was part of an international study into the genetics of the insect.
She told the ABC they had discovered several new genes, including ones that determine why some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others.
“We still don’t have the answer yet as to why some mosquitoes target some people and not others … but we have identified that gene,” she said.
“Once we know the candidates, that might determine what makes someone more resistant, or more attractive to the mosquito, we can manipulate the genes.”
She says the research is significant because it comes at a time when public health epidemics caused by the transmission of viruses like dengue fever, chikungunya and zika are “exploding around the world”.
“We can now understand better how mosquitoes are transmitting all of these viruses because we know some mosquitoes tend to transmit viruses, some don’t,” Dr Rasic said.
Advanced technology has led to a greater understanding of the genetic makeup of yellow fever mosquitoes, allowing scientists to move forward with developing better insecticides and preventing sickness.
The yellow fever mosquito infects 400 million people globally each year, but Dr Rasic says efforts to prevent viruses spreading have been blocked by incomplete genetic data.
Researchers are also looking at how they can genetically modify mosquitoes to control them. This could be used together with other research looking into bacteria in mosquitoes that make them infertile.
— With AAP