Can scientists make birth control for mosquitoes? Well, apparently so. 

A research team in southern Arizona is proving it can be done and the fascinating details are drawing quite a buzz.

The project started after a University of Arizona staff member's husband was bitten by a mosquito carrying the Dengue virus in the Dominican Republic a couple years ago.

“He was suffering, had migraine headaches. She really gave me firsthand information of really how debilitating it is,” said Roger Miesfeld at the U of A’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“For six months, he was unable to work,” Miesfeld said.

To decrease the rate of mosquito-borne diseases, Miesfeld and his team are producing what they call “mosquito birth control.”

“We are particularly interested in bio-safe and mosquito-specific insecticides,” he said.  

Researchers recently discovered a protein in mosquitos, which is critical to the process of producing viable eggs.

“We knocked out 40, one by one,” Miesfeld said. “We put the mosquitoes in little vials, what we called condominiums, so each female had an opportunity to lay eggs.”

When they selectively blocked the activity of a specific protein in female mosquitoes, the mosquitos laid eggs with defective eggshells.

“They’re missing a major part of the eggshell and none of the embryos survive,” Miesfeld said.  

Miesfeld is hopeful the approach will reduce mosquito populations in areas of human disease transmission, without harming beneficial insects such as honey bees. The team has filed a provisional patent on the discovery, that could eventually turn into an application that could be commercialized.

Worldwide, more than 500 million people suffer from diseases transmitted by the blood-feeding insects, including malaria, Dengue fever, Zika, and West Nile. Additionally, nearly 1 million deaths are attributed to mosquito-borne illnesses each year.