A mosquito can bite individuals of different species and eventually allow for some blood of one species to enter into the bloodstream of another species which I suppose may eventually cause DNA transfer, that is horizontal gene transfer

Do mosquitoes increase horizontal gene transfer among the species they parasitise? If yes, is it considerable or negligible?

  • $\begingroup$ The question is rather broad for the moment. Sure mosquitos carry diseases, they will clearly affect other species evolution (incl. the famous interplay between malaria resistance and sickle cell amenia). Is there any selection pressure or any co-evolutionary mechanism you are interested in? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jun 1, 2017 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b, nothing in mind, just curious if the trace amounts of transfer is having an impact over the long term, and if so, was it large or negligible. Simple curiousity, having effectively zero bio science expertise. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2017 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ What do you call the trace amounts of transfer? Do you have in mind existence DNA transfer between individuals of the same species via blood transfer or something like that? Or are you wondering whether the cost of the blood loss via mosquito suction is important? $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jun 1, 2017 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b. More dumbed down than that I guess. Do we have 'bits of antelope or elephant traits in us' because of mosquitoes. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2017 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ Oooh ok, I think I get your question. I completely rephrased your post. If I misunderstood your point (or if you don't like the edit for any reason), feel free to roll back the edit. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Jun 1, 2017 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


In general foreign materials may be transferred from one organism to another in a mosquito, as is obviously the case with malaria, but for DNA to make it from inside the cells of one organism to inside the cells of another organism is exceedingly rare. In general DNAses and RNAses are present anywhere around living cells so when DNA is released it is quickly chewed up into useless fragments. Most likely this happens readily inside the digestive tract of a mosqito (Evolutionarily this makes sense as it would be extremely bad if a mosquito started absorbing genes from any of the organisms it was feeding off of!). Furthermore, DNA is an enormous charged molecule and does not easily pass through a cellular membrane. In a laboratory setting, DNA may be transferred into organisms with the help of electroporation or "gene guns" but this requires large amounts of identical genes to be effectively forced into cells, and even then, efficiencies of gene transfer are low. In short, no, it would be effectively impossible for a gene to be transferred from one organism to another by a mosquito. However, if a virus gets transferred by the mosquito...

  • $\begingroup$ ...not to mention that DNA would have to enter not just any cell but specifically cells in the germ line. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 1, 2017 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ I would not use malaria as a general justification that foreign materials can be transferred by mosquitoes. Malarial sporozoites must actively migrate to the salivary glands of mosquitoes in order to be transmitted in their bite. $\endgroup$
    – Harris
    Jun 5, 2017 at 19:21

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