Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium

Date:
July 15, 2014
Source:
University of Kentucky
Summary:
A new company, created by scientists, uses a very unique approach to control a common pest that can carry dangerous diseases: using male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium. "Most mosquito control companies use chemical pesticides which are sprayed out of trucks and planes, or maybe out of a backpack sprayer," one of the scientists said. "By using a natural bacterium called Wolbachia and the mosquitoes' innate ability to find mates, we are applying an approach which does not require chemicals."

MosquitoMate Employee Releases Male Mosquitoes in a Lexington, KY Yard.
Credit: UK Public Relations

Who would have thought of mosquitoes being put to work to help decrease and control the mosquito population? University of Kentucky professor and researcher Stephen Dobson and his former graduate student, Jimmy Mains, that's who.

Related Articles


Dobson, professor of medical and veterinary entomology in the Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Mains have developed a technology that uses male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium.

"Most mosquito control companies use chemical pesticides which are sprayed out of trucks and planes, or maybe out of a backpack sprayer," Dobson said. "Ours is a very different approach. By using a natural bacterium called Wolbachia and the mosquitoes' innate ability to find mates, we are applying an approach which does not require chemicals."

Mains is a medical entomologist with the company recently formed by Dobson, MosquitoMate. The principal investigator on the project, Mains earned his Ph.D. from UK in 2012 while working in Dobson's lab. Mains just received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to begin field trials that both men hope will demonstrate that this technique can be effective across the nation and beyond.

"A big advantage to our method is that the male mosquitoes are 'self-delivering.' We don't need to devote hours in finding and treating all the mosquitoes in your yard. The male mosquitoes find the females for us," Mains said.

Mains and Dobson credit Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, housed within the Gatton College of Business and Economics, with helping them to take their research from the lab to the field. The center assists UK faculty and others in commercializing their research so they can transfer the technologies they have originated to the outside world for eventual far-reaching application.

"MosquitoMate has obtained an experimental use permit for open field releases," said Dobson. "We're now able to apply the bacterium in small defined areas. The idea is to develop data which we can give to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to demonstrate that it works and hopefully, MosquitoMate can move into actual sales and commercial use of the product."

The primary target for MosquitoMate is the Asian tiger mosquito and as the name suggests, it is an introduced pest.

"It came to the U.S. in the mid-1980s and spread throughout the country," Dobson said. "By eliminating this mosquito, we will be going back to a more natural state."

Mosquitoes such as the Asian tiger historically have been much more than a nuisance, transmitting diseases to humans.

"Now we are getting new reports of a new pathogen called the Chikungunya virus, in which there is an epidemic in the Caribbean and we're starting to get cases to show up in the U.S.," said Dobson.

"Recently cases have popped up in the United States, including right here in Kentucky," Mains said.

The researchers believe that at this point, the cases are thought to be from tourists who leave the country, become infected and then return to the U.S. "But there is the concern that we could start having local transmissions where mosquitoes are picking it up and transmitting it here within the U.S.," Dobson said.

Female mosquitoes bite and can transmit pathogens like the Chikungunya virus. Male mosquitoes, though, do not bite, instead they are pollinators. They spend their lives hunting for females and drinking nectar.

"The Asian tiger mosquito is a container breeder," said Mains. "One homeowner's yard can contain hundreds of sites, such as gutters, flower pots, other receptacles and essentially anything that contains water."

Dobson said the MosquitoMate team is rearing large numbers of mosquitoes in the laboratory and removing the females before going to the field.

"We gather the males into cages and then transport the mosquitoes to the targeted site," Dobson said.

"Our employees basically walk around the perimeter of the house releasing the mosquitoes from the cage," said Mains. "This distributes the mosquitoes within the area pretty evenly."

An important advantage of this methodology over the traditional mechanical spraying of pesticides is that chemicals have the potential to affect non-targets, such as bees, butterflies and other insects that are beneficial to the ecosystem. The MosquitoMate approach only impacts female mosquitoes.

In addition to testing in Kentucky, MosquitoMate has collaborators in California, Florida and New York who are carrying out trials to prove that this method can be effective at multiple sites.

Dobson and Mains intend to take the evidence they gather back to the EPA and apply for a full registration, which would enable them to market their technology throughout the U.S. and in time, to other countries around the world that are trying to stop the spread of mosquito-borne diseases to their citizens.

"To play a key role in helping to reduce or eliminate a significant health threat to our population while building a company which potentially will create a large number of new jobs is a thrilling proposition," said Mains. "We believe MosquitoMate can do just that."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kentucky. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Kentucky. "Using male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140715141917.htm>.
University of Kentucky. (2014, July 15). Using male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140715141917.htm
University of Kentucky. "Using male mosquitoes to effectively sterilize females through a naturally occurring bacterium." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140715141917.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) Oatmeal is a fantastic way to start your day. Whichever way you prepare them, oats provide your body with many health benefits. In celebration of National Oatmeal Day, Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has a few recipe ideas, and tips on how to kickstart your day with this wholesome snack! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
GoPro Video Gives a Lion's-Eye View of The Hunt

GoPro Video Gives a Lion's-Eye View of The Hunt

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) If you’ve ever wondered what getting takeout looks like for lions in Africa, the GoPro video from Lion Whisperer Kevin Richardson will give you a lion’s-eye view of the hunt. Jen Markham has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins