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Kansas State Awarded Nearly $3 Million To Unravel Immune System Of Mosquitoes

Kansas State University researchers are embarking on a five-year project to study the immune systems of mosquitoes.

A research team at Kansas State University was awarded $2.9 million from the National Institute of Health to conduct research on the immune systems of mosquitoes.

Kristine Michel, an associate professor of biology at K-State, has studied mosquitoes and their immune systems for more than 20 years. She will lead the five-year project.

The research will combine elements of genetics, biochemistry and network science to understand mosquito immune response. It is a new approach to an important topic, Michel said.

She said the project will help develop an understanding of insect immune systems and how they interact with and affect humans.

“We are trying to understand how an organism fends off infections,” she said. “You do this, I do this, on a daily basis.

"As we move into cold and flu season, our immune systems are constantly getting challenged.”

She said learning how mosquitoes react to infections is especially important because they are one of the most common transmitters of infectious diseases worldwide.

“Understanding how we can either reduce or eliminate mosquitoes from transmitting diseases is obviously important for global health, but also here in Kansas,” Michel said.

The goal, Michel said, is to come up with the best approach to combating often deadly mosquito-borne illnesses worldwide, without eliminating the mosquitoes themselves.

Ray Strunk is an intern in the KMUW News Lab.