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NMSU biologist to present cutting-edge research at AMS conference

Discoveries from inside a mosquito's gut are leading New Mexico State University professor Jiannong Xu to better understand how to prevent diseases like malaria, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Xu, an assistant professor of biology, will share his pioneering work at the 113th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology May 18-21, in Denver.

Three men gathered around a microscope
NMSU biologist Jiannong Xu, center, conducts research with students Dong Pei, left, and Phanidhar Kukutla. (Submitted photo by Ivy Yu)

Xu, who uses metagenomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics to characterize the structure and function of mosquito gut microbiome, is one of seven speakers from around the world who will discuss, "Discoveries in Symbiosis in the 'omics' Age." Omics refers to studies undertaken on a large or genomic-wide scale.

According to the session's description, "Omics technologies have been of huge importance for symbioses research because they are independent of some unresolved issues in the field, such as the resistance of many symbionts to cultivation, the frequent lack of tractable laboratory assays and the inherent difficulties of studying animals from remote environments."

Xu's presentation, "A Metagenomic Reference Provides Insights into the Functional Configuration of the Gut Ecosystem of the Malaria Mosquito Anopheles gambiae," will focus on the mosquito gut microbiome. What goes on in the mosquito's gut can make a difference. By affecting the insect's immune system and overall health, this research can reduce the number of mosquitoes spreading disease.

"The long-term goal is to exploit the knowledge of mosquito gut microbiome to intentionally manipulate the microbiome that assists mosquitoes to fight pathogens, or reduce the mosquito's fitness to downsize mosquito populations," Xu said.

With more than 39,000 members, the ASM is the world's largest a society of microbiologists who study bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae, some of which cause diseases, but many of which contribute to the balance of nature or are otherwise beneficial. The annual conference provides a forum for scientists from various research fields to present and share their research findings to the scientific community and the public.

For more information about the ASM visit their website at http://www.asm.org/.