Vanquishing the vectors: Enlisting bacteria to fight mosquito-borne disease

In the latest episode of Up Close, I spoke with Professor Ary Hoffman, to look at how biological control can be used to prevent dengue fever, a disease that is prone to rapid and pandemic-scale outbreaks in tropical regions around the world. His approach makes use of Wolbachia, a bacterium that infects as many as 70% of the world’s insect species. It forms bizarre endosymbiotic relationships with the insect cells that it infects, altering mating systems and preventing co-infection with dengue and other viruses — a great example of the weird and wonderful that is possible in nature. Ary is an insect geneticist and ecologist from the departments of Genetics and Zoology at the University of Melbourne. You can download or listen online here.

 

Mosquitoes infected with malaria find humans more aromatic

Anopheles gambiae mosquito Deutsch: Anopheles ...
Anopheles gambiae mosquito (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fragrant waft of a black lentil dhal, the acrid perfume of newly laid bitumen, the delectable aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. Smells make the world a richer, safer and more memorable terrain than it would be without our olfaction in tact.

And we’re certainly not the only ones. Indeed, when it comes to olfactory fortitude, our abilities pale in comparison to some of nature’s aroma-detecting titans. Whereas human olfactory senses — and the number of olfactory receptor proteins in our noses — have been whittled away in favour of a large visual cortex, the truffle-foraging pig and the smell-a-rabbit-two-days-after-it’s-passed-by bloodhound have evolved extraordinarily keen senses of smell.

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