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Sequencing of biting midge genome paves way for control

Copyright: The Pirbright Institute
News from: The Pirbright Institute

For the first time, scientists at The Pirbright Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute have been able to generate and build a complete Culicoides biting midge genome.

These flies are not only an annoying biting nuisance for those visiting or living in Scotland, but also transmit a range of important animal viruses on UK farms including bluetongue virus.

Dr Mark Fife, who led the project, said: “Providing the biting midge genome enables scientists to work out where important genes are located and in some cases what their functions are. This will improve knowledge about which genes are involved in the transmission of livestock viruses and also allows comparisons to be drawn with other groups of vectors, including mosquitoes and sand flies. This is important because division between biting midges and mosquitoes is likely to have occurred over 200 million years ago, meaning that they differ substantially in their genetics”.

Dr Simon Carpenter, leader of the Entomology group at Pirbright, said: “For the midge community this is an exciting moment and our work will assist those around the world who carry out research on these tiny flies. One of the difficulties that we face as researchers on this vector group is that there are major challenges in working with such small insects - providing basic resources like this for what are a neglected species is therefore a major accomplishment”.

The research was published in BMC Genomics, and the entire genome will be made available via the open access database system Ensembl Genomes (December 2018 release). The freely available resource allows scientists to share knowledge about the genetics of insects and other arthropods that spread diseases.

This research was funded by BBSRC.



About The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. Based in the UK and receiving strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the institute works to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience.

With an annual income of nearly £32.1 million from grants and commercial activity, and a total of £14.3 million strategic investment from BBSRC during 2017-2018, the institute contributes to global food security and health, improving quality of life for animals and people.


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

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