Sunday, Dec 26, 2010
Source: Daily News & Analysis
Experts are developing an innovative trap to fight dengue fever - using mosquitoes' motherly instincts.
Researchers at the Tulane University are deploying small devices with just the right mix of chemicals to convince the disease-carrying mosquitoes that they have found the perfect place to lay their eggs.
And once they fly into this lethal maternity ward, there’s no getting out alive.
The university will also begin a pilot study to see if the small gallon-sized traps are an effective, low-cost strategy to prevent transmission of dengue fever, one of the most widespread and deadly mosquito-borne viruses in the world.
It plans to eventually deploy up to 10,000 traps in Iquitos, Peru, an area in the Amazon rainforest where dengue fever is a persistent problem.
If the traps prove successful, further testing will be done in the Caribbean and Thailand.
“After malaria, dengue is the most important mosquito transmitted disease in the world and is a major cause of disease and death in the tropics,” said Dawn Wesson, associate professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
“Right now there has really been nothing that can be safely used on a wide, multinational scale to reduce dengue transmission. If this trap works, we think it can change a lot of people’s lives,” he added.
Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for dengue fever. The only effective way to stop transmission is to reduce the mosquito population, but mosquito control is virtually nonexistent in most areas where the virus is common. It’s too costly and environmentally harmful to deploy widespread pesticides and many mosquitoes have developed a resistance to insecticides, said Wesson.
Tulane’s traps are unique in several ways. While most others target host-seeking mosquitoes looking for a blood meal, these traps target those that have already tasted blood, making them the most dangerous because they may have bitten someone infected with the dengue virus. Female mosquitoes feed before they breed.
“If we can lure that mosquito in and kill her before she has that next blood meal, then we can stop that transmission. If you do that enough times, you can actually stop the transmission of dengue or any other mosquito-borne pathogen,” said Wesson.
“It’s a novel approach to not only mosquito control, but also disease control,” he added.
The Tulane’s trap looks like a small, 12-inch-high black trashcan with holes at the top and a bright red lid. It contains water and a specially developed mixture of attractants that mimic the ideal mix of bacteria and decaying leaves that dengue fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) look for in spawning containers.
The water is laced with pesticide to kill the eggs, and the container is lined with insecticidal fabric designed to kill the adult mosquito.