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Understanding Mosquito Behavior to Prevent Disease Spread

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Category: research Video duration: Understanding Mosquito Behavior to Prevent Disease Spread
Researchers in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute study the granular details of how mosquito brains work in hopes of solving one of the biggest problems facing mankind: how to prevent the transmission of mosquito-borne viral diseases.
Mosquitoes are the most terrifying organism on Earth just because of the different pathogens that they can transmit to humans, but also other animals. So it's really important to have a good understanding of mosquito biology and ecology to develop new tools for mosquito control. And so the problem we have right now is that we have a rising level of insecticide resistance that are occurring in mosquito populations. And in addition to that, it's increasingly evident that beyond insecticide resistance, mosquitoes are developing these physiological and behavioral resistance. In Africa to fight against malaria transmission, we've deployed bed nets treated with insecticides. But the problem is that these nocturnal mosquitoes that are transmitting the pathogen responsible for malaria, are now getting around this control strategy and now they're becoming active at other times of the day. So surprisingly we have only a limited understanding of how they can do that. And so for example, most of what we do is quantifying the behavior. We observe mosquitoes, either virtual flight reality - in virtual reality environment or flight simulators as we quantify the behavior there. But then we have also the ability to look at the neural circuits. So, you know, measure the electrical activity of neurons in the brain a mosquito that's flying. So we can see live what they "think" about the cues that we release. We have live mosquitoes that we put to sleep on ice. Under the microscope for sure. You don't see anything otherwise. And then what do we do is basically the craniotomy. We open the skull of the mosquito. The mosquito is still alive and we just expose different parts of the brain. We just send the mosquito antennae, some different molecules that we want to test. And then we'll observe how the brain basically is responding. It's very small. Like don't drink coffee basically before for doing that experiment because you want to be very steady. And the overall idea is that if we understand how they do, what they do, what makes them so good at finding us and biting us. We can identify levers basically to manipulate their behavior and prevent them from finding us, and biting us.