Can A Mosquito Help Hunt Humans?

Stewart Gasper

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Stewart Gasper

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    The detective Gil Grissom of CSI Las Vegas was obsessed with insects and bugs. As an expert entomologist, he always provided in each chapter of this American series a valid reason for how these species could help him and his team solve a murder case. And it is in front of the inert body of a person, in a scene in which there is no evidence that indicates who could have been the murderer, that the hum of a mosquito can brighten the day to the investigators and become the new witness of the crime committed. Moreover, it could be who helps solve the case.

    This scenario could soon be a reality. Scientists at Nagoya University in Japan have shown how human blood taken from a mosquito’s stomach can be useful for getting a subject’s DNA up to 48 hours after it had received a peck. This would imply, in theory, that a mosquito could be used by forensics to profile the perpetrator of a crime.

    To reach this conclusion, they asked several collaborators to let themselves be bitten by two types of mosquitoes present in tropical and subtropical areas: Culex pipiens pallens and Aedes albopictus. Then, they extracted the DNA from the blood sample they had digested and used a polymerase chain reaction (known as PCR), to multiply the small part of the DNA obtained and amplify it to the point of being able to identify to which subject it belonged. The results were always positive until 48 hours after the peck had happened. Beyond that time, the mosquitoes had digested the blood and it was impossible to get a minimum sample with which to begin the process.

    The study leader, Toshimichi Yamamoto, hopes that “the study will help investigators collect more reliable evidence at the scene of a crime, which can be used to guide the course of the case. Although, yes, we have to take some measures to improve our methods and obtain more data, with more precise quantification methods. In this way, we might be able to estimate, even when the subject received the peck.”