03/18/2015 05:45 pm ET Updated Mar 18, 2015

How Mosquito Sex Is Helping Scientists Fight Malaria

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SMACK! You’ve managed violently to halt a mosquito snacking on your blood. But how likely is it that the departed beastie was the kind that transmits malaria? The latest research shows that the answer has a lot to do with intimate details of the bug’s sex life.

There are a few hundred mosquito species in the genus Anopheles, but just a few are responsible for a great majority of the 600,000 annual malaria deaths. Most Anophelines are poor hosts for the Plasmodium parasites that cause the disease. But the differences between the dangerous mosquitoes and the merely annoying ones have remained unclear. That is changing, as the genetic and sexual particulars of Anophelines are laid bare.