Blood in a Mosquito’s Belly Could Reveal How Diseases Spread

Roxanne Khamsi Science

Blood in a Mosquito’s Belly Could Reveal How Diseases Spread

mosquito

An Aedes aegypti mosquito, abdomen filled with blood. James Gathany/Photo Researchers/Getty Images

Over the last few summers, John Keven has spent many long nights under the stars in Papua New Guinea. For 12 hours at a time, he’ll scour a giant green net set up between thatched huts, looking for resting mosquitoes every 20 minutes. When he spots one with his headlamp, he quietly approaches, extending a long rubber tube to suck the bug off the net. Then he blows it from the tube into a container for analysis—in a lab halfway around the world.

Keven is a doctoral student at Michigan State University, and leader of the mosquito-catching team. “Of course it is difficult to stay awake the entire night,” he says, “but I take coffee to help me.” It’s worth the effort: The undigested blood inside the Anopheles punctulatus mosquitoes Keven collects is going to the research team at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which uses DNA markers to identify what the insects feed on through the night—information that could help predict how they spread disease. Read more.