The Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has added a new unit to its 3,000-square-foot insectary, one of the largest in the U.S. The specialized room within the insectary will support research led by Dr. Conor McMeniman, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of molecular microbiology and immunology, which focuses on the molecular and cellular basis for the mosquito attraction to humans.
Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animal on the planet, and the most dangerous mosquitoes for human health are those that have developed a strong drive to seek out humans. This new unit will support research that provides new insights into the mechanics of the mosquito sense of smell and ways to block it.
The Malaria Research Institute’s insectary, one of the largest in the U.S. and supports 14 faculty researchers, is dedicated to the mass production of mosquitoes and research into their biology and the pathogens they transmit. The insectary includes seven environmentally controlled walk-in incubators, 10 reach-in incubators and seven laboratory work areas. It is hoped such knowledge will catalyze new strategies to combat mosquito-borne diseases of major public health concern including malaria, Dengue and Zika. The two major mosquito species reared in the insectary are Anopheles gambiae, the primary vector of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, and Aedes aegypti, a prolific vector of arboviruses. Other mosquito species may be reared at the facility.
The new room, completed this fall, is a state-of-the-art controlled environment that mimics the natural conditions where mosquitoes grow. The room replicates natural light becoming brighter in the morning and darker at night to mimic natural sunlight. The room is set to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with 70 percent humidity. These are ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed, thrive and fly. The room includes a wind tunnel that will allow researchers to closely study the flight patterns of female mosquitoes towards human-related stimuli including human body odor.