Metro South Health is leading a world-first mosquito monitoring project.
The ‘Zika Mozzie Seeker’ project aims to increase our confidence that mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti species), with the potential to spread Zika or Dengue viruses, are not present in the Metro South Health region. It is also one of Australia's first health-based 'citizen science' projects and a fun way for members of the public to get involved in a vital study.
Citizen scientists are linking to ground-breaking technology.
Project Manager, Brian Montgomery, from Metro South Public Health Unit, is using a world-first method of rapidly screening large numbers of mosquito eggs for the DNA of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The process involves batching eggs from many traps (10-20) into each test, enabling screening of many sites for Aedes aegypti faster and more efficiently. This DNA testing allows scientists to screen up to 5, 000 mosquitoes in one sample and easily detect if there is an Aedes aegypti mosquito in the sample. Previously, scientists had to painstakingly examine each wriggler or adult that hatched from each egg under a microscope.
Using this technique, it’s now possible to test the large amount of eggs that could result from monitoring mosquitoes in backyards across a large urban area, such as the Metro South Health region. This will give scientists a better chance of detecting an invasion, so populations can be eradicated before they can spread Zika and Dengue viruses. To date, nearly 170,00 eggs have been tested, using only 81 PCR tests to give the ‘all-clear’ - no Ae. aegypti detected.
It is anticipated that alternative strategies trialed to engage focal groups, including schools and community groups, will continue to be developed in the future.
This project is a collaboration between the community, Metro South Public Health Unit, and Queensland Forensic and Scientific Services.