Studying disease-carrying insects

Our scientists are studying mosquitoes and other insects that carry and transmit disease causing viruses. This will help improve our knowledge on the viruses they carry, how they develop immunity against them and how to best prevent or manage these animal and human health threats.

The Challenge

Understanding insect behaviour and disease transmission

The best protection against biting insects like this midge (and the diseases they transmit) is to wear protective clothing and a repellent that contains DEET or picaridin. © CSIRO, Electron Microscope Unit, AAHL

Biting insects such as mosquitoes, midges and ticks, transmit many disease-causing viruses that are known as arboviruses (arthropod-borne viruses).

The viruses transmitted via insects can impact the health of our livestock, wildlife and people.

With the impact of climate change and global travel, scientists believe that disease transmission via insect bites will become a significant cause of the spread of new and emerging diseases across the world.

Our Response

Stopping the spread of disease

By studying insect-borne diseases that affect livestock, our scientists improve their understanding of:

Cow infested with cattle tick - Boophilus microplus

  • when and what insects might be most likely to infect livestock
  • how the different viruses are changing over time
  • how to develop methods to protect livestock and people from disease
  • how the insects have developed immunity to the viruses they carry.

CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) has a state of the art high containment insectary for the study of disease carrying insects. Having access to this facility allows our scientists to assess the ability of Australian biting insects to transmit dangerous exotic viruses.

In addition our scientists are using complex algorithms to predict where mosquitoes might invade and how our resources may be best deployed to fight them. They are also undertaking scoping projects to assess new and innovative approaches to mosquito control.

Other members of the team are working with the Australian National University to reduce the risk of eastern Australia being overrun by the Asian tiger mosquito, also known as the BBQ stopper, which carries diseases like Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.

Case study

  • Studying mosquitoes to stop the spread of disease

    Our scientists, in collaboration with international and local partners, are implementing a new approach to disease control by studying the behaviour of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Far North Queensland. This will help identify ways to reduce the wild population of mosquitoes to prevent transmission of diseases.


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