The most dangerous animal in the world?
Earlier this year, Bill Gates declared mosquitos the most deadly animal in the world . This may be surprising considering their puny size but nearly 1,000,000 people die each year due to diseases caught from mosquito bites. The pathogens that mosquitoes carry that have the ability to kill if not treated and consequently can decimate populations in developing countries. Each year, two new mosquito-transmitted viruses are discovered that can infect humans. Called vectors for their ability to transmit viruses and parasites from human to human, these animals are indeed very dangerous.
Culicidae is the scientific name for the family of insects known as mosquitoes, of which there are over 3500 species. One large genus of mosquitoes called Anopheles contains up to 40 species, some of which are responsible for transmitting Malaria to humans (Anopheles ironically means good-for-nothing) . The parasite Plasmodium is picked up from an infected human, and passed to the next via the mosquito’s bite. Malaria is just one of many diseases that humans can contract from mosquito bites, however, many mosquito species don't transmit disease and are an important part of the ecosystems they reside in. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tell these species apart by looking at them. How do you know if the mosquitoes in your backyard are possible vector of disease, or one of many species that is harmless to humans and important to our environment?
DNA Barcoding Mosquitos
Since 2005, the DNA Barcoding community has put an emphasis on collecting the DNA of known mosquito species. The resulting library of species from around the globe can help combat this alarming issue that humanity faces. As stated by Yvonne Linton, of the Natural History Museum in London, “…different mosquito species can look so similar that it's hard to identify them, which undermines any attempts at control. DNA barcoding offers a cheap and accurate way of telling the difference between species, based on snippets of DNA code." Increased human travel across continents is providing the means for mosquito-transmitted diseases to move into new locations. Just this month, officials in the US reported many cases of the Chikungunya virus and Dengue fever in people who had recently travelled to the Caribbean and were bitten by infected mosquitoes . This brings up the question - Do you know what’s eating you? Find out with the LifeScanner kit!