groups » Dengue Entomology Discussion Group » Efforts to control mosquitoes take on new urgency

Brazil, now a poster child for mosquito-borne virus spread, was once a model for mosquito eradication.

“It was amazing,” says Dan Strickman, medical entomologist with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Aedes aegypti mosquito, today identified by epidemiologists as one of the carriers of the Zika virus, was attacked in the 1930s with the simple tools then available. By 1965, the mosquito was certified as eradicated from Brazil and 17 other countries in the Americas (but not the United States). The feat took ferocious effort, but as the threat dwindled, so did money and the political will to stay vigilant.

Whether eradication would even be possible now is unclear. But the question of how to cope with Ae. aegypti has taken on new urgency as that mosquito species sweeps Zika virus through South and Central America and into parts of North America. Known as the yellow fever mosquito, Ae. aegypti can also spread dengue, chikungunya and West Nile viruses (SN: 6/13/15, p. 16).

It’s “the most difficult mosquito in the Americas to control,” says Michael Doyle, director of mosquito control for the Florida Keys. The mosquito’s resistance to major pesticides and its unusual biology foil many standard control measures. Some scientists have developed high-tech control approaches. Other specialists are going back to the basics to search for biological vulnerabilities that have been overlooked.

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