Mosquitoes all around the world kill more people than any other animal. They are the carriers of many fatal diseases. To control mosquito population, there are chemical pesticides available that are sprayed in mosquito breeding areas using trucks, airplane or backpack sprayer. But these pesticides, along with mosquitoes kill other insects as well. So researchers are busy finding alternate methods to keep a check on these deadly creatures.
A new and unique method for controlling mosquito population has been developed by researcher Stephen Dobson, who is also a professor of of medical and veterinary entomology at the University of Kentucky, along with his Jimmy Mains who is his former graduate student. They together have designed an innovative technology that would employ mosquitoes to keep a check on mosquito populations, thus eliminating chemical usage. The male mosquitoes would sterilize female mosquito using a naturally occurring Wolbachia bacterium.
The advantage with this method is that male mosquitoes find the females for the research and do the required work, says Mains. This saves them from collecting and treating mosquitoes.
Dabson has recently formed a company MosquitoMate, where Mains is working as a medical entomologist. Both the men now hope to extend their work from laboratory to field trials to demonstrate that the technique is equally effective in the field.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have given a grant to MosquitoMate to begin its open field releases. They are planning to apply the bacterium in small designated areas. The data from the trials will be passed on to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to show its efficiency and eventually the MosquitoMate can be made available for sales and commercial use.
MosquitoMate’s first field trials would target the Asian tiger mosquito. In the mid-1980, these mosquitoes were first introduced in the U.S and slowly were spread across the country transmitting fatal diseases to humans. By successful elimination of them, the country would go back to their natural state, said Dobson.
The team members of MosquitoMate, raise huge numbers of mosquitoes in the laboratory and separate females before going to the field. The male mosquitoes collected so are transported to the targeted areas. The team releases the mosquitoes from the cage around the perimeter of the various houses within the area.
This method specifically targets female mosquitoes and does not harm other insects such as bees and butterflies, beneficial to the ecosystem which used to get affected using traditional methods of spraying chemical pesticides.
MosquitoMate will be extending its trials in Kentucky, Florida, California and New Yorks, to show that this technique can be efficacious at various sites. Later, with the results from these trials MosquitoMate intend to apply for a full registration to the EPA. This would help them to extend the market for their technology from U.S to other countries, looking for methodology to control the spread of mosquito and disease transmitted by them.
Mains hope that in the coming future, Mosquitomate will help in eliminating mosquito related health threat from various countries of the world along with creating job opportunity for many.
Hopefully, we would soon get to control these mosquitoes and spread of some deadly diseases like Chikungunya, malaria, dengue, yellow fever to name a few that kills nearly one million people every year across the world.
Source: University of Kentucky