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Hybrid Mosquitoes Spreading West Nile

The U.S. is experiencing more serious, widespread cases of West Nile than Europe because of the hybrid mosquitoes here. Genetic analysis shows that the mosquitoes carrying West Nile in the U.S. have the combined DNA of two different types of European mosquitoes. One of them normally bites birds, while the other bites people. The hybrids bite both.

Merritt McKinney writes that because these new insects bite both people and birds, they spread West Nile much more quickly. In northern Europe there are two types of mosquitoes?those that live underground and those that live on the surface. Although these two types are not mixing in Europe, genetic analysis of U.S. mosquitoes shows that over 40% of ours are a combination of both. Dr. Dina M. Fonseca says, "We have shown that below-ground populations are derived from northern African specimens that must have migrated north when urban development generated habitats they could survive in [such as subways and sewers]." If the hybrid mosquitoes are the cause of more West Nile outbreaks in the U.S., "then preventing their introduction into northern Europe is paramount."

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