AUG 20, 2020 1:49 PM PDT

Studying the World's Deadliest Animal

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Imagine hundreds of mosquitoes feeding on your arm for the sake of research! This is one unique aspect fueling the work by the Ifakara Health Institute in "Mosquito City." This video from GatesNotes highlights how researchers study mosquitoes to control populations and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Ifakara Health Institute, as stated on their website, is a world-class research institute working to improve the health and wellbeing of people. According to the video and the Institute's website, "Ifakara" means "a place you go to die." The GatesNotes blog post accompanying this video states that the town was named as such because, at one point, up to 80% of the population was infected with Malaria. Ifakara Town was the institute's original site and is home to Mosquito City, thanks to the excellent breeding habitat for mosquitoes in the region. Malaria has been a research focal point of the Institute, but over the years, they've expanded to dengue, filariasis, rift valley fever, and zika.

The Institute aims to learn everything they can about mosquitoes, including how to kill them, what attracts them, their behaviors, and their entire life cycle. Research has shown that mosquitoes can adapt quickly, evidenced by how species developed resistance to previous control methods. As Fredros Okumu, the Institute's chief scientist, stated in the video, "It's kind of a love-hate relationship. If you can't beat them, you join them for now, but then you can kill them from the inside."

A key focus is the mosquito species Anopheles funestus, one of the deadliest and least understood species. As the video states, this species is responsible for every nine out of ten new malaria infections, and it is crucial to learn everything they can to respond to it effectively.

According to GatesNotes, the Institute creates and innovates tools to meet community members' immediate needs. They've developed tools to compliment bed nets such as eaves ribbons and sandals. Researchers record and learn mosquito "soundprints" to identify the various species. In what might be considered one of the most creative tools, they've built a machine to learn how mosquitos choose households to enter or people to bite based on smell.

Sources: GatesNotes, Ifakara Health Institute
 

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
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