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Dangerous Friends

A symbiotic gut bacterium makes Asian tiger mosquitos more resistant to insecticide

03 May 2022

Dangerous Friends

'Friendly' gut bacteria protect our digestion, immune system, and mental health. But it’s not just humans who benefit from the microbes that live within them. The Asian tiger mosquito spreads diseases like Dengue and yellow fever. It’s becoming an even greater threat as it develops resistance to the insecticides used to control it, and part of the problem is the bacteria that live inside the mosquito. Shown is a tiger mosquito gut colonised by Serratia oryzae bacteria (green). Researchers found that feeding these bacteria to mosquitos increased their ability to survive insecticide treatment. The mosquitos passed their gut bacteria, and the gift of insecticide resistance, onto their offspring. Serratia oryzae can use the poison as a food source, and they also stimulate their host to produce enzymes that detoxify it. Understanding this symbiotic relationship may inspire new ways of fighting the tiger mosquito and the diseases it spreads.

Written by Henry Stennett

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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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