New OHSU mosquito lab aimed at malaria cure

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OHSU researchers will lab raise up to 200,000 insects

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — We usually think of mosquitoes as pests to keep barricaded outside, but a new lab at Oregon Health and Sciences University is doing just the opposite — they’ve got top-notch security to keep thousands of the bloodsuckers from getting out.

That’s because the new facility isn’t any ordinary lab, but an “insectary,” dedicated to studying malaria vaccines and drug research.

The lab will rear up to 200,000 mosquitoes of varying species, some of which will be infected with various species of malaria, according to head immunologist and microbiologist Brandon Wilder.

“Our lab hopes to use this insectary to study every aspect of malaria biology, immunology, so we can create the best vaccine capable of actually preventing infection, stopping transmission, and eventually eliminating malaria,” Wilder said.

He noted that he’s not in the business of “releasing it out to Oregon,” which is why the facility features extensive security features. That includes key card secure layered doors, brightly colored lab apparel and equipment — to easily spot a mosquito if it escapes, “air dams” to trap a stray bug in its tracks and even bug zappers.

The mosquitoes are kept inside cages in two separate barriers.

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