Study offers insight into infectious diseases

Asian Rockpool Mosquito
New research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that larvae of the invasive Asian rockpool mosquito (pictured above) consume parasites that might otherwise infect the native eastern tree-hole mosquito. (Photo: Eileen Kumpf /Shutterstock

It’s rare that scientists see the good in invasive species. But at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center, researchers have discovered something positive about a non-native mosquito.

Tyson’s 2,000 acres allow faculty, staff, and students from all over the globe to study a variety of environmental disciplines, including sustainable operations, researchand education. In this particular study, scientists conducted a field experiment in which they allowed two different kinds of mosquito larvae — one native and one non-native — to develop together.

They discovered that the native mosquitoes were susceptible to a species-specific type of parasite that greatly impaired their development. But when the non-native species was present, it reduced the prevalence of the parasite in the native mosquitoes from 72-90% to 13-27%. This occurred through something called “encounter reduction.” Simply put, the non-native species ingests the parasite before it reaches the native species. 

Kim Medley, director of the Tyson Research Center and a leading expert on mosquito research, notes that studies like these can broadly inform how infectious disease manifests and changes along with changes in biodiversity. The concepts can then be applied to numerous systems, including infectious disease in humans. 

Read the full story in The Source.