NIH grant to support research on mosquito movement and control

Researchers from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health have been awarded a four-year grant of $1.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to use genomics-based methods to study mosquito movement patterns. This will help to advance new genetics-based strategies to control mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.

“Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and Zika have proven to be very difficult to control with currently-available tools,” said John Marshall, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study. “Genetics-based tools could be transformative in controlling these diseases, but their safety and efficacy is dependent on how mosquitoes move around, their mating behavior, and how many there are.”

In collaboration with Gordana Rašić from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia, the researchers will be tracking mosquito movement by determining how far apart closely-related mosquitoes are found, using genome sequences to determine relatedness. In previous studies to measure movement, mosquitoes have been marked with fluorescent dust, however this marking process itself affects the movement, according to researchers.

“This is work that Dr. Rašić and I have been discussing for about three years now,” Marshall said, “and it’s really exciting to have the funding support to see these ideas become a reality. We hope that this work will help to move the field of mosquito control forward.”