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Know Your Mosquito Enemy

After Rockefeller University's Leslie Vosshall pleaded on Twitter for advice on developing a genetic map of mosquito DNA, a collaborative effort to assemble the Aedes aegypti genome took off, the New York Times reports.

As the Zika virus has sparks concerns, researchers have become more interested in the Ae. aegypti genome as the mosquito spreads the virus.

"If we're going to control the creature, we need to know it frontwards and backwards," Yale University's Jeffrey Powell and member of the new Aedes Genome Working Group tells the Times. "Having a complete genome sequence of the beast will give us a fundamental understanding of its biology that you can't get any other way."

The Ae. aegypti genome sequence has been mapped previously, in 2007, but the Times says the result is " staggeringly imperfect" and made up of 36,204 parts, with genes missing and duplicated and stretches that are misassembled. 

"I can't tell you how many meetings I've been to where people use four-letter words" to talk about the current map, the University of California, Irvine's Anthony James tells the new group of collaborators during a call.

And so, the Aedes Genome Working Group have set off to do it better, using DNA from a particular Ae. aegypti cross. They've landed an emergency grant from the US National Institutes of Health to get started and the Broad Institute has offered its resources to the project. Though they are still short some funds, the working group has developed a plan using three types of DNA sequencing and work has begun.