SLU news

Mosquito CSI – Bacteria reveal information of recent events in a mosquito’s life

Published: 11 March 2016

Bacteria on and in malaria mosquitos reflect their life history. It is even possible to predict from where a mosquito was taken based on its bacteria, according to researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Uppsala University in Sweden, the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich, UK and Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé in Burkina Faso.

The finding that bacteria correspond so well to where a malaria mosquito comes from is described in the March issue of Scientific Reports.

- We know that bacteria are found everywhere, but were surprised how much they could tell us about the population structure of the mosquitoes, says Olle Terenius, researcher at the Department of Ecology, SLU. We could even get information about where their mothers came from.

Traditionally, recording spatial dynamics of mosquitoes over shorter time frames has required mark-release-recapture experiments where a large number of mosquitoes are radioactively labeled or marked with fluorescent dye before release. This technique is plagued by a plethora of technical problems and massive releases of vectors of disease bring ethical issues, says Richard Hopkins, researcher at NRI.

- We believe that using bacteria as proxies for analysis of population structure and dispersal has large potential in insect research, says Olle Terenius. Now, we have to follow up this finding with other studies both in mosquitoes and other insects in order to understand where it has the greatest potential.

For more information

Olle Terenius
Dep. of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
+46 (0) 72-561 49 59,

Richard J. Hopkins
Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK
+44 (0) 1634 883304

The article
Moritz Buck, Louise K. J. Nilsson, Carl Brunius, Roch K. Dabiré, Richard Hopkins & Olle Terenius. Bacterial associations reveal spatial population dynamics in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22806 (2016). Doi:10.1038/srep22806