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Australian Scientist Lets Thousands Of Mozzies Bite Him In The Quest To Find A Cure

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Australian Scientist Lets Thousands Of Mozzies Bite Him In The Quest To Find A Cure

Whenever you get a mosquito bite, it can wreak havoc on your willpower. All you want to do is scratch it and it's even worse when the bite is in a hard to reach place.

Well, imagine having not one, not two, not three but hundreds or thousands of bites along your arm.

While that's the stuff of nightmares for some, it's a daily reality for Perran Ross.

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The Melbourne-based entomologist is working on controlling the spread of dengue, zika and other viruses that are spread by mosquitoes.

The main way researchers all around the world are doing this is by injecting a bacteria called wolbachia into the egg of a specific mosquito species. Aedes aegypti does not have wolbachia naturally occurring in its body and this is the main species that transmits dengue fever.

The World Health Organization recorded 4.2 million infections of dengue fever last year and thankfully few deaths.

As you can imagine, mosquito eggs are absolutely tiny, and it requires a micromanipulator, aka a very small needle, to puncture the egg wall.

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In order to keep the female mozzies alive to lay more eggs, they need to be fed. The easiest way researchers have found to do that is by giving them blood. Obviously they can't just rock up to a hospital and nick some sacks of human blood, so they have to do it manually.

That's where Perran's arm comes into play.

He has to whack it into a clear box and let the suckers suck for as long as they desire. The Melbourne-based researcher has told LADbible that it's an interesting job.

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"I feel a slight tickle on my arm when they land. When they start feeding you can't actually feel much unless they get you in the right spot (where it can sting quite a bit)," he said.

"Initially it was very hard to resist the urge to shake them off and swat them, but now I'm much more used to it. It only takes a couple of minutes for a mosquito to finish feeding, but I usually leave my arm in there for about 10-15 minutes to give them all a fair go.

"I usually feed about 250 female mosquitoes at a time before moving onto the next group. After an hour or two of feeding thousands of mosquitoes, my arm gets very warm and is completely covered in welts."

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The obvious question is how the hell does he resist scratching his arm into oblivion with all those welts.

Perran says it's all down to 'sheer willpower'.

"When I fed mosquitoes for the first time I couldn't stop scratching and my arms were itchy for more than a month," he tells us. "I used to run the bites under cold water for a few minutes which works well. Now I just roll down my sleeve and try not to think about it."

While many would never even consider doing that ever in their life, Perran has a really good outlook on it.

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He said: "It's a small price to pay for research that will hopefully improve the lives of millions.

"Most mosquito species don't spread diseases and many of them don't bite humans. Some of them don't bite at all. Mosquitoes also play important roles in the ecosystem and are a great source of food for many animals."

In addition to having part of his body become a feeding ground for mozzies, Perran is also focusing on understanding the stability of bacteria like wolbachia in different environments and seeing how long they'll be effective for.

Featured Image Credit: Perran Ross/Twitter

Topics: News, Animals, Australia

Stewart Perrie
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