A University of Arizona team of researchers has a way to turn mosquitoes' blood-sucking habits against them.
Mosquitoes are the cause of a lot of human misery in many parts of the world.
They spread diseases that kill millions of people.
How to stop them?
Tucson scientists think they can do it by giving mosquitoes a really bad stomach ache.
UA Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dr. Roger Miesfeld opens a door on a box in his laboratory. It's incubator.
"Alright, so we raise our mosquitoes in the incubator," he says.
From eggs to fully grown mosquitoes, it's all done in the lab.
"We're interested in trying to find better insecticides for mosquitoes because mosquito-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent today than they have ever been," Miesfeld says.
Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite and spread diseases, such as dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever.
Mosquitoes become resistant to insecticides, so scientists try to stay one step ahead.
Here's some of what scientists knew going into this: A mosquito needs protein from blood to lay eggs, and a female mosquito eats a lot of blood.
Miesfeld says one female mosquito meal is the equivalent of a 125-pound woman drinking a 12-gallon smoothie, made mostly of hamburger meat.
"So if you could drink a 12-gallon smoothie in two minutes and then lay 100 eggs a couple of days later, you'd see how really stressful that is," Miesfeld says. "So what we're doing is targeting her ability to digest her blood meal."
The researchers inject the mosquito, and knock out her ability to digest her meal.
The scientists created a time lapse video of mosquitoes they had injected.
In the video, the treated mosquitoes are on the left. The untreated ones on the right.
The ones on the left get sick and die in a couple of days.
"Obviously, there was something happened in her gut, and when she blew up with all that food, it burst open. And, of course, she died," Miesfeld says.
So the mosquito that bites an infected person does not live to bite a second one, and that stops the spread of disease.
The researchers say, since there are a lot ways to disrupt mosquitoes' digestive pathway, science might stay that one step ahead of the mosquito's ability to become resistant.
"Any disruption in the pathway is going to be a problem. So, the future studies that we have is to knock out one, two three, four different processes along so that the chance of resistance to any one insecticide is lower because now we have a cocktail that maybe hits two or three," Miesfeld says.
Miesfeld says you might be able to soak bed nets with the insecticide they are developing, or maybe you could put the insecticide in a pill that would be harmless to humans.
"Everybody in the village would take a pill, like a vitamin, and they would have the drug in their system and so a mosquito takes a blood meal. She picks up the drug," Miesfeld says.
The idea is to change the way things are.
"Here in the United States, we have mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are a pest. We don't like to get bit by mosquitoes, but they don't kill us. And so that's what--I would like to see that happen throughout the world," Miesfeld says.
If the UA scientists get the grants to continue their studies, we could have a new tool against the insects that create so much misery in the world today.
Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.