All it takes is a single mosquito (scientific name, Anopheles gambiae) bite for one to get malaria, but recently according to two new studies conducted (and published in Science), one of the major malaria parasite carriers in sub-Saharan Africa, also known as the A. gambiae, is splitting into two species.

While this type of species has been known to consist of several subtypes of mosquitoes, genetic analysis suggests that the Mopti (M) and the Savanna (S) varieties are well on their way to being classified as separate species.

While the only differences between them are purely ‘genetic’, these two species of mosquitoes are similar both physically and developmentally, and have been observed to be even “flying in the same mating swarms”.

The co-author of the first study, and who belongs to the Division of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Imperial College London, Mara Lawniczak, says that “We can see that mosquitoes are evolving more quickly than we thought,"in studying the two genomes of the two species.

According to researchers in the second study who compared the key genetic differences between the two A. gambiae types, the reason for the species to split into two is because of the changes in their habitat (thanks to global warming) due to the increase in temperature in their corresponding habitats.

And this genetic change in mosquitoes can have implications for researchers and medical professionals everywhere as their success in treating malaria effectively largely depends on identifying and monitoring these genetic changes.

And in infecting almost 247 million people around the world while claiming one million deaths every year, the need to find a successful cure for malaria is what makes the findings of these two studies crucial, as strategies developed to deal with one type of mosquito might not work effectively against the other.

And in being able to understand the genetic makeup of these two types of mosquitoes, researchers hope to find new ways of preventing them from infecting people.

Published by