A study into the genetics of mosquitoes could support malaria treatments delivered through international health insurance.
Research undertaken in Virginia Tech's Fralin Life Science Institute and published in PLoS Pathogens revealed that the ability to transmit human malaria multiple times originated in the recent evolution of closely-related African mosquitoes.
The research, which was led by College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate professor of entomology Igor Sharakhov and department of entomology student Maryam Kamali, could have implications for the control of malaria throughout international healthcare facilities.
In the future, it might enable scientists to identify and target specific genetic alterations associated with an organism's ability to transmit parasites.
The researchers utilised a chromosomal analysis to examine the genes of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes and those outside of this family in order to discover the evolutionary connections between the species.
"Our goal was to determine how different species arose in the Anopheles gambiae complex, as they all look identical but have different behaviours and capacities to transmit human malaria," Ms Kamali stated.
She revealed species outside of this family were used as a reference point for the genetic relationships within the genus.
Investigators found breaks in the DNA that result in new chromosomal arrangements, which were utilised to outline the repeated evolution of the mosquito's ability to transmit parasites.
"The surprising aspect of the paper is the proposal of an ancestral and relatively ancient 2La polymorphism which arose in a hypothetical ancestor and has been maintained in Anopheles gambiae ever since," professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame Nora Besansky said.
Anopheles gambiae is the most dangerous of the Anopheles genus and until this study, it was thought that it had only recently developed the ability to spread malaria.
As many as 907,000 people die every year as a result of malaria, with children in sub-Saharan Africa some of the most vulnerable.