LONDON, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Two strains of mosquitoes carrying malaria in Africa have evolved substantial genetic differences and are becoming separate species, British scientists say.
Researchers from Imperial College London studied two strains of the Anopheles gambiae mosquito, primarily responsible for transmitting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, ScienceDaily.com reported Wednesday.
The two strains, known as M and S, are physically identical but have evolved enough genetic differences they appear to be evolving into separate species, researchers say.
This could hamper efforts at controlling the malaria that they spread since attempts to control populations may be effective against one strain but not the other, scientists say.
“From our new studies, we can see that mosquitoes are evolving more quickly than we thought and that unfortunately, strategies that might work against one strain of mosquito might not be effective against another,” Mara Lawniczak from Imperial College’s Division of Cell and Molecular Biology says.
“It’s important to identify and monitor these hidden genetic changes in mosquitoes if we are to succeed in bringing malaria under control by targeting mosquitoes,” she says.
The World Health Organization says more than 200 million people globally are infected with malaria with the majority of them in Africa.
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.