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Man lets thousands of mozzies sting arm

You might think your job sucks, but it’s nothing compared to this.A brave Australian scientist has spoken of how he lets thousands of mosquitoes bite his arm as part of research into a deadly infectious disease.Dr Perran Stott-Ross, of Melbourne University, lets bugs lap up his blood daily in his quest to rid the world…

You might think your job sucks, but it’s nothing compared to this.

A brave Australian scientist has spoken of how he lets thousands of mosquitoes bite his arm as part of research into a deadly infectious disease.

Dr Perran Stott-Ross, of Melbourne University, lets bugs lap up his blood daily in his quest to rid the world of dengue fever, ScienceAlert reports.

The disease has exploded worldwide over the past 50 years and kills an estimated 25,000 people every year.

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The insects Dr Stott-Ross feeds are infected with wolbachia, a bacterium known to block the spread of dengue.

Speaking to ScienceAlert, the infectious disease expert admitted that the bites – up to 5000 a day – do sting on occasion.

“Sometimes it can sting a little bit if they get you in the right spot, but mostly it’s just slight irritation,” he said.

“It’s absolutely itchy later. As soon as I take my arm out, I have to resist the urge to scratch.”

Dr Stott-Ross has worked with mosquitoes for years and regularly posts photos and videos of his research to his 2500 Twitter followers.

In one post that went viral in May, he shared an image of his arm after a day of feeding, writing that he’d lost 16ml of blood.

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Wolbachia is already a well distributed infectious bacteria, and it’s helping scientists fight back against dengue fever.

The microorganism formed a big part of recent efforts to eradicate dengue fever in Northern Australia.

The project started in 2011, and turned north Queensland into a “dengue-free area for the first time in 100 years”, physician Richard Gair, director of Tropical Public Health Services in Cairns said back in April.

Research into how wolbachia might help other dengue-stricken areas involves the rearing and feeding of hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes.

Dr Stott-Ross’ work involves infecting mosquito eggs with the bacterium – which is harmless to humans – and then breeding lines of wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in the lab.

Releasing these insects into the wild can infect wild populations, stopping dengue transmission in its tracks.

“You have to rear hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes in the lab and then go around releasing them everywhere,” Dr Stott-Ross told ScienceAlert.

“These particular mosquitoes don’t really travel very far by themselves.”

It’s painstaking work, and one that requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears to keep the many thousands of mosquitoes fed.

Ross works with the mosquitoes daily, feeding them by sticking his arm through some bug-proof netting.

Projects to release wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to help fight dengue pandemics are expanding across the globe.

A project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has reduced dengue infections by between 40 and 60 per cent, Dr Stott-Ross said.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but appears the tide is finally turning on the disease, which infects an estimated 390 million people each year.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

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