Washington: According to studies, more than 500 million people around the world suffer from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes including malaria, Dengue Fever, Zika and West Nile.
Now, researchers from the University of Arizona have discovered that a protein in mosquitoes that is critical to the process of producing eggs could pave the way for a ‘mosquito birth control’.
The study found that when researchers selectively blocked the activity of the protein, named Eggshell Organizing Factor 1, or EOF-1 – in female mosquitoes, they led eggs with defective shells leading to the death of the embryos inside.
The study, published in journal PLoS Biology, researchers showed that EOF-1 exists only in mosquitoes. Therefore, any drug developed to render the protein dysfunctional would only affect mosquitoes and no other organisms.
The team, led by Jun Isoe, a research scientist in the lab of Roger Miesfeld, a UA Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is hopeful the approach might offer a way to interrupt mosquito egg formation and reduce mosquito populations in areas of human disease transmission without harming beneficial insects such as honey bees.
Speakinga about the studym Isoe said, “We specifically looked for genes that were unique to mosquitoes and then tested for their functional role in eggshell synthesis.”
Isoe further added, “We think there are other discoveries to be made using this same species-directed approach.”
Images obtained through electron microscopy revealed that when mosquitoes are deficient in the EOF-1 protein, the females lay eggs with abnormal-looking egg shells. Although the exact function of the protein remains to be elucidated, Isoe and Miesfeld believe that EOF-1 might act as a master switch at the onset of the insects’ ability to produce viable eggs in response to a blood meal.
Based on these results, the team envisions a strategy using small molecule drugs that selectively interfere with mosquito EOF-1 in areas of the world where mosquito-borne human diseases are prevalent, resulting in eggs that never hatch into larvae.