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Trends Ecol Evol. 2005 Apr;20(4):202-9.

Redressing the sex imbalance in knowledge of vector biology.

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Public Health Entomology Unit, Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre, PO Box 53, Off Mlabani Passage, Ifakara, Tanzania.


The recent development of transgenic mosquitoes that are resistant to infection by the Plasmodium malarial parasite is a promising new tool in the fight against malaria. However, results of large-scale field releases of alternatively modified mosquitoes carried out during the 1970s and 1980s suggest that this approach could be difficult to implement in the field. These past attempts to control mosquito populations largely floundered as a result of our insufficient understanding of the behavioural ecology of released males. In spite of this, contemporary research on genetic control strategies has concentrated predominantly on molecular aspects, with little progress being made toward resolving key ecological uncertainties, male mosquito ecology being the most important. Here, we review the state of knowledge of male mosquito ecology, and highlight priorities for further research. Case studies of two crop pests, the Mediterranean fruit fly and melon fly, are given as examples of how knowledge of male ecology facilitates successful control in other species. Unless similar information becomes available for mosquitoes, any future genetic control strategy will risk failure.

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