New study reveals potential control for mosquito populations

A study lead by Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Perugia has revealed that blocking a hormonal switch in a female Anopheles gambiae mosquito could impair reproduction, and may be a strategy to control mosquito populations and malaria.

Researchers found that egg development in the mosquito species, which is primarily responsible for spreading malaria, depends on a male hormone that is delivered during sex.

Flaminia Catteruccia, the associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at HSPH and UNIPG, said the findings represent a significant step forward in understanding how mosquitoes reproduce.

Researchers looked at the interaction between a steroid hormone from the male called 20-hydroxy-ecdysone and a female "mating-induced stimulator of oogenesis" protein.

"How males contributed to egg development had previously been unknown," Catteruccia said. "With the identification of the molecular players of the male-female interaction we can now find ways to switch off the signal and prevent females from reproducing."

Malaria kills approximately 660,000 people every year, with 90 percent of those deaths occurring in Africa, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 216 million malaria cases were reported worldwide in 2010, consisting mostly of pregnant women and children.