MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Mosquitoes born in cooler temperatures have weaker immune systems

Scientists at Virginia Tech announced on Monday that mosquitoes that have been reared in colder climates are shown to have weaker immune systems.

Mosquitoes are a major concern around the world because of the insects' ability to spread diseases like West Nile fever, malaria and chikungunya fever. Mosquitoes with lower immune systems are shown to be more susceptible to these diseases, making them more likely to carry and transmit them to humans.

"Mosquitoes like to breed and lay their eggs in dark, cool places because that means the water will last longer," Zach Adelman, an associate professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said. "They don't lay their eggs in sunny spots because that will dry the water out in a day or two. Although this has been known of some time, we are just learning about its potential affects on the mosquito immune response. Hopefully, this information can be used to build better models that more correctly predict when we'll have disease transmission."

The research was published on May 31 in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The research goes over different weather conditions and how they affect the mosquitoes' immune system. The numbers suggest that focusing solely on warmer temperatures when considering links between climate change and disease transmission might be unwise at this stage.

"Our data offers a plausible hypothesis for how changes in weather influence the transmission of these diseases and will likely continue to do so in the future," Kevin Myles, an associate professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said.