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The challenge

Understanding insect behaviour and disease transmission

Biting insects such as mosquitoes, midges and ticks, transmit many disease-causing viruses that are known as arboviruses (arthropod-borne viruses), which can impact the health of our livestock, wildlife and people.

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

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. Recent outbreak of Zika virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, showed that this can have significant impact on public health.

Our response

Stopping the spread of disease

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

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

CSIRO's Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) 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 (including mosquitoes and midges) to transmit dangerous exotic viruses. It also provides us with the ability to maintain colonies of exotic mosquitoes, including Asian tiger mosquito, also known as the BBQ stopper, which carries diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya.

Cow infested with cattle tick - Boophilus microplus

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 projects to assess new and innovative approaches to mosquito control.

Collaborating nationally and internationally, the team is looking at how to reduce the public health impact of insect-borne viruses in Australia and around the world.

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