Know your enemy – mosquito species in Pacific

James Cook University researchers have compiled a guide to mosquitoes in the Pacific, to help nations in the region, including Australia, stay one step ahead of the disease-carrying species now triggering unprecedented outbreaks.

Dr Tanya Russell is Senior Research Fellow and medical entomologist at JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine and the author of the guide.

She said vector control programs designed to limit the spread of mosquito-borne diseases require up-to-date intelligence to develop the most effective responses.

“We need to know the enemy, their distributions, and behaviours.

“So strong surveillance systems are crucial to the development of effective vector control programs as the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases is escalating in the region,” said Dr Russell.

She said the guide provides an overview of the diversity, distribution, and biology of 42 disease-carrying mosquitoes species found in the Pacific, including checklists for the species present in each of the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories.

Dr Russell said globalisation, including massive increases in commercial transport via air and sea over the past 50 years, has enabled stowaway mosquitoes to infiltrate new territory.

“There’s been huge expansion in the range of the primary mosquito dengue vectors in the Pacific, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. They have spread throughout almost all the Pacific Island countries, even though historically they are not from that region,” said Dr Russell.

She said there is also emerging evidence of species adapting their behaviours to avoid contact with insecticides.

“Some mosquitoes, that previously lurked inside homes, are learning to wait outside for a blood meal. There’s also worrying signs that some mosquito populations are developing physiological resistance to certain insecticides, which no longer kill on contact.

“We have synthesized all this information to assist vector control programs to know what is happening in their area, which will enable them to develop more effective, locally adapted response measures,” said Dr Russell.

A guide to mosquitoes in the Pacific is an open access publication and available here.

The publication was produced via the PacMOSSI project supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in collaboration with The Pacific Community (SPC) who published the open access book.

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