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Scientists find way to predict mosquito outbreaks

Washington, Wed, 25 Mar 2009 ANI

Washington, Mar 25 (ANI): A team of Australian researchers has found a way to predict plagues of disease-carrying mosquitoes up to two months ahead.


According to ecologist Associate Professor Corey Bradshaw from the University of Adelaide, this should help fight outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease like dengue and Ross River fever by allowing efficient and cost-effective mosquito control.


"The risk of disease transmission is highest when mosquitoes are at their most abundant. This model is a tool that helps predict when there is going to be a higher-than-average outbreak so that population control efforts can be implemented when they are going to be most effective and are most needed," Bradshaw said.


Bradshaw and colleagues analysed 15 years of population data of Aedes vigilax, the northern Australian mosquito that transmits the Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses, and compared it with environmental factors affecting populations including tides and rainfall.


"We found that basic environmental monitoring data can be coupled with relatively simple population models to assist in predicting the timing and magnitude of mosquito peaks which lead to disease outbreaks in human populations," Bradshaw said.


For instance, in salt-loving species like the Aedes vigilax mosquito, populations tend to peak after very high tides. But the frequency of high tides and the amount of rainfall in the preceding months when mosquito numbers are low are the critical elements dictating the magnitude of eventual peaks.


"Previously, we didn't know how big that peak would be. With this model, mosquito control efforts can be scaled according to the expected size of a future peak," said Bradshaw.


Bradshaw said the same model could be applied to other mosquito species, for instance dengue- or malaria-transmitting species, and others in tropical regions worldwide.


The research is published online in the Public Library of Science journal (PLOS). (ANI)


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