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Assessing insect population dynamics is critical. In order to select the best approaches for mosquito eradication and maintenance, we must first support research in the field to determine whether or not any given island's mosquitoes are an isolated population or whether new mosquitoes arrive by any number of possible routes on a regular basis. If the local population is isolated, eradication will be easier to maintain, as the local population quickly becomes extinct or dramatically reduced, with no foreign mosquitoes replenishing the insect population. If foreign mosquitoes frequently arrive, additional surveillance and eradication methods at identified points of entry (ports, airports, etc) are needed. In addition, in such a case another option for population control would be to introduce genes to inhibit their ability to spread certain diseases (which would remain in the gene pool, infecting new mosquitoes in the area and passing to future insect generations). It is also important to determine if there is any seasonal variation in insect populations, as well as whether susceptibility to existing organophosphate insecticides is maintained.
Sterile insect technology allows us to drastically reduce, and ultimately eradicate, the mosquito population. Male mosquitoes (which do not suck blood) that have been altered through genetic modification are released into the environment in overwhelming numbers to compete with wild males and mate with females. The resulting offspring die before reaching maturity, rapidly decreasing the mosquito population. Because every affected mosquito dies, no concern of genetic modification is necessary. Once a population is infected, it dies out, leaving no trace of altered DNA. This technology will not spread or alter in unforeseeable ways.
Wolbachia is a type of bacteria that is naturally occurring and can be used to inhibit the transmission of certain diseases in insects, such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. While it is usually not found in the most common disease carrying mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, when introduced it can prevent several viruses from growing inside the insect, rendering its ability to transmit those viruses to humans impossible. An alternate, more experimental approach also exists, where the bacteria is used to sterilize any mates of the infected mosquito. Wolbachia itself is safe for humans and the environment.
Rapid identification of suspected cases, using real-time reverse transcription-loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP), can also help by quickly identifying and preventing outbreaks of chikungunya and dengue. With a DNA sample, this method can detect those viruses in under 1 hour.
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SPREAD THE WORD
Science gives us several options to combat mosquito borne illness
To help end mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika is a huge task. However the science with which to do so exists already and the problem is largely one of financing and public awareness.
While you can volunteer with us directly, even traveling to provide communities with materials and education, there's much you can do on your own. Contact us to learn more about opportunities and ideas for donating, fundraising, hosting events, campaigning, buying gifts, and involving your school or company.
Post it, tweet it, share it. The more people you tell, the more help we can receive.
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Public Awareness is Essential
There are many things people can do to help prevent the spread of mosquito borne illness, such as:
Educate yourself and others on the signs and dangers of common viruses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya