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First-Draft Genome Sequence of Tiger Mosquito Determined, Insect Transmits Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Fever, and Other Deadly Diseases, Infecting Millions Annually

On September 14, 2015, Pathogens and Global Health journal published online, in an open-access article, details of the first-draft genome sequence of Aedes albopictus, commonly known as the tiger mosquito and responsible for transmitting several deadly diseases to humans, such as dengue fever and chikungunya fever, both carried by viruses, potentially offering hope to millions around the world. "This sequencing…offers great hope to our understanding of the mosquito and our ability to control it, potentially saving millions of lives in many areas of the world," said Professor Andrea Crisanti, Editor-in-Chief of Pathogens and Global Health. The Pathogens and Global Health article provides a first look into the genetics of a most dangerous and invasive insect and the possibility of developing ways to prevent the spread of the dengue and chikungunya fevers that infect millions of people annually. The advance is all the more urgent now, given increasingly high levels of mosquito migration and the fact that Aedes albopictus has been moving in recent years from its natural habitats in tropical South East Asia to many parts of the world, including Europe, the United States, and Africa. It is estimated that as many as 400 million people are infected by the dengue and chikungunya viruses carried by the tiger mosquito and transmitted to people as it feeds on their blood. The article is titled “A Draft Genome Sequence of an Invasive Mosquito: an Italian Aedes albopictus.” Major global upheavals have undoubtedly contributed to the large-scale spread of Aedes albopictus, and these are believed to include climate change, urbanization of rural areas, and, indeed, changes in the use of land itself. This has all led to fears among many populations of a risk of infection from Aedes albopictus. The sequencing and the analysis were jointly carried out by a number of leading institutions – including Imperial College in the UK, the University of Perugia in Italy and the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, along with others in the UK, Italy, and the US – and was supported by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. The project proved enormously challenging, mostly due to the large size of the Aedes albopictus genome compared to other insects that spread diseases to people. Scientists will now be in a better position to identify just how diseases are passed on to humans by Aedes albopictus and to devise ways to prevent it.

[Press release] [Pathogens and Global Health article]