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Unveiling the world of mosquitoes: A guide

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Unveiling the world of mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals in the world, killing close to one million people a year by transmitting about 100 diseases.1,2

A bloodsucking ballet: Understanding female mosquitoes

In their quest to reproduce, the female mosquitoes of some species use needle-like proboscis to pierce the skin of various mammals, humans included.3,4 This act of feeding, accompanied by the injection of saliva, not only triggers itchy bumps but can also transmit diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika, West Nile virus, Chikungunya, and dengue.1,5 

 

Mosquitoes often lay their eggs on the surface of standing water. The eggs hatch into wiggly larvae that feed on tiny plants and animals in the water. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, the mosquito larvae form a hard case called a pupa, which hatches into a flying mosquito.6

 

The three culprits: Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex

There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes, but three are particularly important in spreading disease to humans.7,8

  1. Aedes: Flourishing in warmer climates, Aedes mosquitoes are notorious for spreading diseases like yellow fever, Zika virus, Chikungunya, and dengue.9

  2. Anopheles: Found worldwide (except Antarctica), Anophele mosquitoes are infamous for transmitting malaria.10

  3. Culex: The most widespread mosquito species worldwide, Culex mosquitoes can transmit encephalitis, West Nile virus, and lymphatic filariasis.11

 

The main type of Aedes mosquito that transmits dengue is Aedes aegypti. Another species called Aedes albopictus also, to a lesser extent, transmits dengue.12

The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives near people and breeds in artificial containers that hold water, like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flowerpots and car tires. It feeds mostly during daylight and bites most early in the morning and just before sunset.12

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References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fighting the World’s Deadliest Animal. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/stories/2019/world-deadliest-animal.html. Accessed January 2024.

  2. Keller MD, et al. Sci Rep. 2016;6:20936. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep20936. Accessed January 2024.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is a Mosquito?. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mosquitoes/about/what-is-a-mosquito.html. Accessed January 2024.

  4. Dixon AR, Vondra I. Materials (Basel). 2022;15(13):4587. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/15/13/4587. Accessed January 2024.

  5. United States Environmental Protection Agency. General Information about Mosquitoes. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/general-information-about-mosquitoes. Accessed November 2023.

  6. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Mosquito Life Cycle. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/mosquito-life-cycle. Accessed November 2023.

  7. Cantillo JF, Puerta L. Front Allergy. 2021;2:690406. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/falgy.2021.690406/full. Accessed January 2024.

  8. Dahmana H, Mediannikov O. Pathogens. 2020;9(4):310. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0817/9/4/310. Accessed January 2024.

  9. Flores HA, O'Neill SL. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2018;16(8):508-518. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-018-0025-0. Accessed January 2024.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Malaria. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/biology/index.html. Accessed January 2024.

  11. Nchoutpouen E, et al. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2019;13(4):e0007229. Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0007229. Accessed January 2024.

  12. World Health Organization. Dengue and severe dengue. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dengue-and-severe-dengue. Accessed November 2023.