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Healthy Eating

Starving mosquito larvae boosts their ability to transmit viruses

21 February 2022

Healthy Eating

Eat your greens to grow up big and strong. It’s a rule that applies throughout the animal kingdom. So in lab experiments studying mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika virus, larvae are fed well to produce robust adults for tests. But nutrition in the wild is more variable; might this affect an insect’s capacity to transmit disease later in life? Researchers compared infection in well-fed mosquitoes and those raised on a meagre diet. Zika virus establishes in the midgut, but then must escape to other tissues before it can be transmitted to humans. Researchers examined infection (red) in midguts from nourished (bottom) and starved (top) mosquitoes 7, 9, and 11 days after infection (left to right). Although virus replication was reduced in starved mosquitoes, it spread around the body more easily, showing that a stressful upbringing can boost transmission potential, which may affect future mosquito – and virus – control strategies.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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