Most of us associate mosquitos with mean red, itchy welts and having to bring insect repellents along on outdoor adventures. However, for others, particularly those living in hotter, more humid climates, mosquitoes are more than pests – they can be deadly transmitters of viruses such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Zika virus fever or West Nile fever.
Mosquitoes are one of many vectors – insects that can transmit infectious pathogens among humans, or from animals to humans. According to the World Health Organization, “vector-borne diseases account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than 700,000 deaths annually.”
This is where Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) awardee George Dimopoulos, Ph.D., MBA, is stepping in. A professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dimopoulos is studying vector-borne diseases and possible ways to render mosquitoes – what he deems “the deadliest animal on the planet” – incapable of transmitting human pathogens.
His research could help to reduce the number of vector-borne diseases. With the aid of a grant from MII, Dimopoulos is seeking to commercialize a nontoxic, environmentally friendly biopesticide. He has developed a cost-effective biopesticide that can target and kill adult and larval stages of mosquitoes and other agricultural pests, such as the Western corn rootworm that causes more than $1 billion in damages each year.
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