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Understanding mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes carry diseases that may be passed on to people or animals through mosquito bites.

New research to tackle one of Australia’s most prolific mosquitos, responsible for spreading most cases of Ross River virus, has commenced in the Hunter Region of New South Wales.

Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, Zika and chikungunya are a major global public health issue. More than half of the world’s population are at risk from diseases spread by mosquitoes.

Increased trade, urbanization and global temperatures mean local and invasive mosquito species like the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, currently established in northern Queensland and the Torres Strait, could spread into major Australian cities and potentially transmit these deadly diseases.

New approaches to controlling and suppressing populations

Despite concerted efforts to eradicate mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit, the World Health Organisation estimates that some 390-million dengue infections occur annually, of which almost 100-million people fall ill, leading to 25,000 deaths.

The most common approach for mosquito population control is targeted insecticide application. While the success of this method is limited to treating outbreaks of disease, many mosquitoes eventually develop resistance, and insecticides have adverse environmental impacts.

This has raised awareness for alternate approaches to control these deadly diseases. Our researchers are developing new and novel ways to understand mosquitoes and how they spread viruses by:

  • Use of genomic sequencing to investigate population movements
  • Application of traditional population control and suppression tools in novel ways
  • Developing new digital technologies to optimize and support large-scale field interventions
  • Exploring next-generation technologies to detect and reduce the impact of mosquito borne-diseases

Our researchers take a long-term approach when addressing the challenge of mosquito-borne disease in vulnerable communities.

Working with national and international collaborators, as well as local communities, our researchers develop tailored and sustainable approaches to address this important public health issue.

[Music plays and an animation image appears of many pink mosquitos moving over the screen]

Narrator: Mosquitos, tiny, buzzing, blood-sucking insects that are one of our deadliest predators.

[Animation image changes to show a mosquito in a box on the left of the screen and a world map with the tropical area highlighted in a box on the right side of the screen]

The Aedes Aegypti is one type of mosquito found in many tropical countries around the world.

[Animation image changes to show a mosquito on the left with two lines emitting from the mosquito to encompass a circle on the right and three disease symbols can be seen inside the circle and text appears: Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya]

It is known for carrying diseases such as Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya, diseases which lead to significant death and suffering each year.

[Animation image changes to show a picture of mosquito with a cross through it, and a rack of test tubes on the left, and a computer screen showing a world globe and a changing bar graph on the right]

Over the past few years our researchers have been tackling the challenge of mosquito borne diseases by preventing the spread of pathogens and protecting vulnerable communities.

[Music plays and the animation image changes to show a symbol of the Wolbachia bacteria and text appears: Wolbachia]

One method we use is a symbiotic bacteria called Wolbachia.

[Animation image shows pictures of a mosquito, a beetle, a cockroach, a fly, a flea, and a grasshopper surrounding the Wolbachia bacteria symbol]

Wolbachia occurs naturally in 60% of insect species.

[Animation image changes to show a mosquito emerging from the Wolbachia bacteria symbol on the left and connecting to a crossed circle containing the symbols of the different diseases and text appears: Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya]

Australian scientists have found that mosquitos containing a new Wolbachia strain are unable to transmit these deadly diseases.

[Animation image changes to show a hybrid mosquito on the left and a male mosquito on the right and a horizontal arrow between the two and text appears: Modified, Un-modified]

Wolbachia also affects reproduction of the insects that contain it.

[Animation image shows another arrow moving down vertically from the horizontal arrow and the image shows mosquito larvae at the end of the arrow]

If a female containing Wolbachia mates with a male that doesn’t have it all offspring will carry the bacteria.

[Animation image changes to show a computer screen covered with a graph showing the percentage of Aedes mosquitos with Wolbachia on the vertical axis and the time period on the horizontal axis]

Over time, this means the mosquito population will ultimately be replaced with one where all the mosquitos have Wolbachia and cannot spread disease.

[Animation image changes to show a world map on the computer screen and the image shows green pin points on the map]

This method has been successfully trialled in Australia and other countries.

[Camera zooms out to show the world map on the right and a crossed out mosquito and a line graph can be seen on the left of the screen]

These ongoing trials highlight the importance of Wolbachia as a method for controlling the spread of infectious diseases in mosquitos and in turn, local human populations.

[Animation image changes to show pink and green mosquitos on the left and two lines joining the mosquitos to a circle containing symbols of the diseases and text appears: Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya]

We take a long-term approach when addressing the challenge of mosquito borne disease in vulnerable communities.

[Animation image changes to show a city in the background with a row of people standing in front of the buildings]

We partner with local scientists to develop a tailored and sustainable approach that is owned and deployed by local stakeholders.

[Animation image changes to show three documents showing Risk Assessments for Australia, Thailand, and Brazil]

This involves an initial risk assessment as each country’s mosquito challenge is unique.

[Animation image changes to show a computer showing a picture of a tropical island above a picture of a city on the right, and a crossed mosquito and a line graph can be seen on the left of the screen]

This process ensures we understand the environment and local ecology to determine the most appropriate technology and approach to use.

[Animation image changes to show symbols of different nationality people in a group]

Community engagement is a key focus to understand the scope of the issue and its impact on residents and the community at large.

[Animation image changes to show a teacher pointing to a line graph while a group of students listen]

We’re also dedicated to fostering education, and helping build community capability around mosquito research management.

[Animation image changes to show a person using an iPhone connected to Wi-Fi and a city can be seen in the background]

Once we’re in the community and work is underway we use the latest technology to support field work.

[Animation image changes to show a map on a computer screen on the right of the screen and a crossed mosquito and a rack of test tubes on the left of the screen]

We’ve developed a digital dashboard that tracks mosquito populations.

[Camera zooms in on the map on the computer screen and the image shows a blue pinpoint on the map and then lines appear joining the pinpoint to other pink pinpoints]

This provides real-time visualisation of activities where end information is shared across all stakeholder groups. This empowers local partners and supports decision-making throughout the project.

[Animation image changes to show a computer screen showing DNA strands, a line graph, a mosquito, and disease symbols on the right, and a robotic arm on the left lifting a test tube from a rack]

We’re also investing in Next Generation technologies to reduce the impact of mosquito borne diseases.

[Animation image changes to show many green mosquitos on the screen]

This involves precise manipulations of mosquitos to either reduce their capacity to transmit the pathogen, or drive down their population.

[Animation image changes to show the CSIRO logo on a white screen]

We are CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency. Work with us and together we can tackle the global challenge of mosquito borne disease.

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