The most dangerous animal in the world

How research by our Natural Resources Institute is tackling mosquito-borne disease and its untold impact on human misery.

"The mosquito is the most dangerous animal in the world, carrying diseases that kill over one million people a year," says Gabriella Gibson, Professor of Medical Entomology.

There are 3,500 known species of mosquito but most of those don't bother humans at all, living off the blood of other animals.

It is only the females, from just 6% of species, that draw blood from humans - to help them develop their eggs. Of these just half carry pathogens that cause human diseases. But the impact of this handful of species is devastating.

"Half of the global population is at risk of a mosquito-borne disease," says Dr Frances Hawkes, Research Fellow and Behavioural Entomologist. "They have had an untold impact on human misery."

Principal Investigator Dr Richard Hopkins, Head of the Pest Behaviour Group, and a team of experts from NRI, are travelling to Brazil this month to initiate a three-year project in collaboration with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ) in Rio de Janeiro. "We're looking forward to applying our joint expertise to tackle this urgent global public health issue."

Research in the Pest Behaviour Group makes use of cutting-edge laboratory technologies and intensive field work to understand the basic physiology, behaviour and ecology of pests - the insects and small mammals that damage human health, livestock, crops and stored products.

With a focus on both the developed and developing world, NRI researchers apply their understanding of pest behaviour to develop innovative technologies to control damaging insects.

Male Anopheles gambiae mosquito

Male Anopheles gambiae mosquito.

Male Anopheles gambiae mosquito

Dr Hawkes setting mosquito traps in Malaysia.

NRI is part of the Faculty of Engineering & Science. It carries out world-class research and development in agriculture, climate change, foods and markets, specialising in tropical and temperate regions. It draws upon its international research and development work to underpin its taught MSc programmes in agricultural and food sciences, as well as undergraduate programmes in biology and enviro-mental sciences.

NRI's world leading achievements have also been honoured with a prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, which was awarded by Her Majesty the Queen at a special reception at Buckingham Palace.

Professor Gibson (left) and Dr Hawkes (right) with Dr Roch Dabiré in Burkina Faso

Professor Gibson (left) and Dr Hawkes (right) with Dr Roch Dabiré in Burkina Faso.

Experts and further information

Professor Gabriella Gibson

Gabriella's pioneering work focuses on the control of mosquitos that are damaging to human or animal health. Her research includes understanding mosquito night vision and their ability to fly in the dark, and their communication through the sounds produced by their wing-beats during swarming and mating.

Dr Richard Hopkins

Reader in Behavioural Entomology, Head of Pest Behaviour Research Group Richard's research interests include mosquitoes' choice of habitat and where to lay their eggs. This work includes the identification of insect repellent compounds in native plants.

Dr Frances Hawkes

New insights into the way in which mosquitoes locate human hosts, and the development of a new mosquito trap are at the heart of Frances' work.

The Natural Resources Institute

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) is a specialist research, development and education organisation of the University of Greenwich, UK, with a focus on food, agriculture, environment, and sustainable livelihoods.

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