Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne disease commonly known as the Zika virus occurred a few years ago in geographic regions located near the southeastern US, including the Carribean. This disease is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, but the disease is not currently a matter of concern in the US. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local Zika transmission cases were reported within the states of Florida and Texas during 2016 and 2017. Naturally, public health professionals in the US want to prevent Zika-infected mosquitoes from transmitting the disease within the US. This concern has led to a vast number of anti-mosquito programs aimed at reducing the number of Aedes aegypti species, and numerous other disease-spreading Aedes species within the US. While several recently developed mosquito-control methods have proven effective, several mosquito-borne diseases, such as the west Nile virus, have continued to infect Americans in many parts of the country, including the northeast US. These cases have not reached epidemic levels in the country, but this may change in the future due to several factors, including climate change. Luckily, researchers have recently developed a novel mosquito eradication method that involves the release of cannibalistic mosquito species.
The Aedes aegypti is spreading into northern regions of the US where the species had not existed before. The CDC estimates that this species has likely reached Massachusetts, and while the Zika virus is unlikely to become a problem in the northeast, several other Aedes mosquito species spread the west Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis within Massachusetts and other states in the region. The idea to rear cannibalistic mosquitoes that consume larvae of Aedes mosquito species may prevent future mosquito-borne disease outbreaks from occurring within all regions of the US. Other mosquito eradication methods have involved the release of sterile mosquito species that drastically reduce the reproduction rates of mosquitoes that spread disease. This method, and several others, require scientists to rear thousands of sterile insects within batches in a laboratory setting before releasing them into the wild. Unfortunately, this does not work for the new method of rearing cannibalistic mosquitoes (Tx. rutilus) since the specimens eat each other. Therefore, the cannibal mosquitoes must be painstakingly reared individually before setting them lose on Aedes mosquitoes in the wild. Although the research scientists working on this project are no doubt very smart, it is surprising that they did not anticipate a potential problem with rearing cannibalistic mosquitoes within densely populated batches.
Do you think that mosquito-borne disease cases will increase in the northeast US?