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Bonkers scientist lets thousands of INFECTED mosquitoes ‘feed’ on him – to help stop killer disease


YOU might think your job sucks, but it’s nothing compared to this.

A brave Australian scientist has spoken of how he lets thousands of mosquitoes bite his arm as part of research into a deadly infectious disease.

Dr Perran Stott-Ross, of Melbourne University, lets bugs lap up his blood daily in his quest to rid the world of Dengue fever, ScienceAlert reports.

The disease has exploded worldwide over the past 50 years and kills an estimated 25,000 people every year.

The insects Dr Stott-Ross feeds are infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium known to block the spread of dengue.

Speaking to ScienceAlert, the infectious disease expert admitted that the bites – up to 5,000 a day – do sting on occassion.

“Sometimes it can sting a little bit if they get you in the right spot, but mostly it’s just slight irritation,” he said.

“It’s absolutely itchy later. As soon as I take my arm out, I have to resist the urge to scratch.”

Dr Stott-Ross has worked with mosquitoes for years and regularly posts photos and videos of his research to his 2,500 Twitter followers.

In one post that went viral in May, he shared an image of his arm after a day of feeding, writing that he’d lost 16ml of blood.

Wolbachia is already a well distributed infectious bacteria, and it’s helping scientists fight back against dengue fever.

The microorganism formed a big part of recent efforts to eradicate dengue in northern Australia.

The project started in 2011, and turned north Queensland into a “dengue-free are for the first time in 100 years”, physician Richard Gair, Director of Tropical Public Health Services in Cairns said back in April.

Research into how Wolbachia might help other dengue-stricken areas involves the rearing and feeding of hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes.

Dr Stott-Ross’ work involves infecting mosquito eggs with the bacterium – which is harmless to humans – and then breeding lines of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in the lab.

Releasing these infected creepy crawlies into the wild can infect wild populations, stopping dengue transmission in its tracks.

“You have to rear hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes in the lab and then go around releasing them everywhere,” Dr Stott-Ross told ScienceAlert.

“These particular mosquitoes don’t really travel very far by themselves.”

It’s painstaking work, and one that requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears to keep the many thousands of mosquitoes fed.

Ross works with the mosquitoes on a daily basis, feeding them by sticking his arm through some bug-proof netting.

Projects to release Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to help fight dengue pandemics are expanding across the globe.

A project is Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia, has reduced dengue infections by between 40 and 60 per cent, Dr Stott-Ross said.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but appears the tide is finally turning on the disease, which infects as estimated 390million people each year.

In other news, toxins in water produced by bacteria killed more than 300 elephants in Botswana this year, officials have announced.

An alligator on helium has landed researchers a bizarre science prize.

And, an asteroid came closer to Earth than some satellites last week.

What do you make of the strange mosquito research? Let us know in the comments…

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