AUG 31, 2018 10:53 PM PDT

Technology Can Detect Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Wouldn’t it be convenient to have technology that can easily, quickly and cheaply categorize whether or not a mosquito species is carrying a threatening disease, such as Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya or yellow fever? Well, this is coming true according to a publication in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases where researchers from the University of Texas at Austin who developed a new diagnostic tool that can identify a mosquito that belongs to a dangerous disease-carrying species. Additionally, the diagnostic tool can also determine whether the bug has been in contact with a mosquito-control strategy known as Wolbachia.

"Many of these diseases are spreading in areas where they weren't common before," explains first author and researcher, Sanchita Bhadra. "Having surveillance is important in conjunction with any kind of outbreak, and this method allows a rapid test in the field."

The technology, which is developed by scientists and students at UT Austin, utilizes a smartphone camera and a small 3D-printed box with an additional simple chemical test to show if a dead mosquito belongs to the Aedes aegypti species; a particular species are known for carrying the Zika virus plus other devastating viruses that affect more than 100 million people worldwide each year. Aedes aegypti is also linked to the tripling of cases of disease-carrying mosquitoes in the United States since 2004.

Credit: Vivian Abagiu/University of Texas at Austin

The diagnostic tool, which can be used anywhere, specifically tests a mosquito’s nucleic acid without the associated complication. The tool is officially called ‘loop-mediated isothermal amplification and oligonucleotide strand displacement’ (LAMP OSD) where a probe delivers a simple yes-or-no message on a cellphone, with an accuracy greater than 97 percent. LAMP OSD can also detect the presence of a bio-pesticide called Wolbachia; a bacterium that prevents mosquitoes from spreading diseases.

The time-efficient technology can assist public health groups by replacing other diagnostic tests that are difficult to read, expensive, logistically cumbersome, and error-prone. “This test can happen without involving a lot of staff and equipment to make sure Wolbachia is effective and spreading as anticipated," Bhadra said.

Fortunately, the research has inspired the team to seek new technology that can easily identify whether trapped mosquitoes are carrying pathogens.

Source: University of Texas

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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