A team led by scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has sequenced and annotated the first complete mitochondrial genome of Anopheles funestus, one of the main vectors of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. This milestone, published in June in Scientific Reports, offers a glimpse inside this insect’s genetic diversity, ancestral history, and evolution — information that researchers might eventually exploit to develop new ways to prevent this deadly disease.
Study leads Dr. Douglas E. Norris, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s departments of molecular microbiology and immunology and international health, and Dr. Giovanna Carpi, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute postdoctoral fellow in the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Bloomberg School have found that the vast majority of malaria vector research has focused on Anopheles gambiae, considered to be the primary transmitter of this disease.
However, although An. funestus is a close second — responsible for helping to transmit most of the world’s approximately 216 million cases that cause half a million deaths annually — few genetic studies have focused on this species due to its comparative difficulty to rear in the lab.