A biologist at Boston College and a team of fellow researchers around the world have made some progress in stopping a mass murderer. The biologist is Marc A.T. Muskavitch, and the serial killer in question is Anopheles gambiae, otherwise known as the malaria mosquito--responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.
In an article appearing in Science, lead author Muskavitch describes use of a high-density SNP microarray for the malaria vector mosquito, which established 400,000 genetic markers that reveal new insights into how these little killers adapt to insecticides and live to kill another day.
The SNP array examines hundreds of thousands of features within DNA and establishes genetic markers that can be used to understand the likely success of insecticides.
"Each marker is like a genetic signpost along the genome. These markers have revealed that when mosquito populations begin to separate from each other, it is a very complicated process that can involve hundreds of genes. The genes we have identified are genes that we can now investigate, to better understand their roles in the complexity of mosquito populations," explains Muskavitch.
"Our best tools for stopping vector mosquitoes that transmit malaria depend on mosquitoes that bite us at night when we are asleep and then rest inside our dwellings after they take our blood," Muskavitch says. "But we have already seen that mosquitoes are changing. They are beginning to bite during the day, or to rest outside. By using the SNP array, we can begin to understand the genes that lead to these differences in behavior."