Insectary

WRAIR insectary buckets of mosquitoes

Mosquito- and sand fly-borne diseases, including malaria, leishmaniasis, and Zika virus, are the most pressing threats to the medical readiness of Soldiers. Part of the Entomology branch, the Insectary rears the insects used in the study of interactions between disease vectors and pathogens and in the Controlled Human Malaria Infection (CHMI) model.

WRAIR’s Insectary developed the world’s first CHMI model in 1985 where human subjects are exposed to a curable form of malaria to test novel antimalarials. WRAIR has performed over 100 challenges on over 2,200 volunteers over its 30-year history. 

The CHMI model is exceptionally standardized and reliable. In addition to receiving the dosing regimen prescribed by the clinical trial, volunteers receive five bites from malaria-infected mosquitos. Subsequently, scientists dissect the mosquitoes and confirm that an infectious bite occurred by dissecting mosquito midgut and salivary glands. Volunteers then continue the trial as clinicians regularly evaluate volunteers for signs of malaria infection or protection. If the countermeasure fails, volunteers are quickly cured.

Additionally, the Insectary was critical to the development of WRAIR's Zika vaccine by breeding the Aedes mosquitoes required for research and development.

The Insectary advances WRAIR's biomedical research by:

  • Breeding Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes (up to 10,000 new mosquitoes per week) for product research and development
  • Maintaining the largest sand fly repository in the world with about 15 colonies, available to researchers through the NIH-funded repository
  • Examining disease transmission dynamics at the mosquito bite site that can influence infection outcome
  • Supporting the development of animal models for drug and vaccine development
  • Conducting product development efforts to confer bite protection to protect against all vector-borne pathogens

Visit the Entomology branch's page to learn more about the broader effort against mosquitoes. Prospective partners in academia, industry, or government are welcome to reach out through the WRAIR Public Affairs Office for more information about purchasing mosquitoes, research collaborations, or scheduling a visit.