Mosquitoes’ taste for human blood may grow as African cities expand

From Science Magazine
May 12, 2020

n most of the world, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is notorious for biting humans and spreading dengue, Zika, and other viruses. But in Africa, where the mosquito is native, most Aedes prefer to suck blood from other animals, such as monkeys and rodents. A new study suggests, though, that their taste for humans may rapidly expand—and with it their ability to spread disease.

By surveying the range of Aedes biting preferences across Africa, the study shows that dryness and dense populations favor strains that target people. Those conditions are likely to intensify in Africa with climate change and increasing urbanization, though not everywhere.

“The work is significant because the better we can understand where and why mosquitoes like humans, the better equipped we will be to predict and mitigate disease spread,” says Mara Lawniczak, an evolutionary geneticist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, who was not involved in the study.

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