New genetic research reveals consequences of pesticide use on mosquito evolution

Martin Lopez/HIGHLANDER

Researchers from the UCR Department of Entomology have learned more about the genetic changes exacerbated by pesticidal chemicals used on mosquitoes.

According to the research paper, titled “Human Interventions: Driving Forces of Mosquito Evolution,” published in the journal Trends in Parasitology, the use of pesticides affect important biological functions in mosquitoes. By understanding the new genomic sequences that allow mosquitoes to be immune to current pesticides, entomologists and researchers would be able to create better decisions about the effects humans have on the evolution of mosquitoes and the consequences that follow.

The team includes Colince Kamden, a postdoctoral researcher, and Caroline Fouet and Peter Atkinson. In their paper, the team shared how the mosquitoes’ resistance to pesticides would increase the spread of serious diseases. Kamden shared with The Highlander that these vector-borne diseases like malaria and leishmaniasis, otherwise known as black fever, can be transmitted to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. “Rapid evolution such as the adaptation of mosquitoes to insecticides enables us to study significant biological processes in real time and to advance understanding of how human actions affect other species,” said Kamden.

Through researching this mosquito species and understanding the profound effect pesticides have on its genome, Kamden and the team are able to use these findings to conduct more extensive research in regards to pesticides. New and more effective pesticides could be produced, making them more resilient against these evolved mosquitoes, whereas existing pesticides could be improved.

Some of the methods the team has used in their research include DNA sequencing, through which they were able to examine the mutations the mosquitoes have developed from exposure to pesticides that eventually made them resistant to their effects.

“We need detailed information on the genetic and ecological changes associated with resistance to different classes of insecticides and to understand how these changes vary from one region to another and from one mosquito population to another,” Kamden explained in an email.

By understanding these changes and the risks created by continued use of pesticides, researchers now see the importance of human intervention where actions such as excessive pesticide use can become more harmful than good. More understanding of the changes occuring in mosquito species would give entomologists a better idea of how to combat vector-borne diseases that have a profound effect on people who live in environments that put them at risk for these diseases.

“Thanks to a combination of intervention measures including the scaling up of long lasting insecticidal nets, indoor residual spraying, improved diagnostic and case management, a dramatic reduction in malaria burden has been achieved in sub-Saharan Africa over the past few decades,” said Kamden. “The impact of widespread insecticide resistance on malaria epidemiology remains poorly understood, but insecticide resistance management is clearly needed to preserve the efficiency of malaria control programs that are underway.”

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