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Upstate is awarded federal grant to help catch disease-carrying mosquitoes

Upstate is awarded federal grant to help catch disease-carrying mosquitoes

Upstate Medical University has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to develop a prototype for a new device to specifically attract and exterminate Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This type of mosquito spreads dengue fever, chikungunya, zika fever, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne diseases commonly found in tropical climates. The grant is supported by the DOD Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program (DWFP) of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board (AFPMB).

If successful, the prototype should provide soldiers with another layer of protection when they are deployed in regions where these viruses are endemic. The prototype could potentially be modified to attract and destroy other mosquito host vectors, such as those that transmit West Nile disease and encephalitis.

Upstate’s Anna Stewart Ibarra, Ph.D., M.P.A., the project’s principal investigator, is collaborating with a team of infectious diseases and mosquito biology experts on researching and developing the novel device. Stewart Ibarra is assistant professor of medicine and Latin America Research program director for the Center for Global Health & Translational Science at Upstate. She has expertise in dengue fever epidemiology, Aedes aegypti ecology, dynamics and surveillance. Joining her in the project are Dr. Marco Neira, assistant professor, Center for Infectious Disease Research, College of Exact and Natural Sciences, Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador; Dr. David Larsen, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition at Syracuse University, director of Public Health Research at Akros (NGO focused on malarial control located in Zambia); Dr. Kamal Chauhan, research chemist, USDA-ARS Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory; and Dr. Mark Polhemus, director, Center for Global Health and Translational Science, SUNY Upstate Medical University.

“As no vaccine is yet available for dengue or chikungunya, controlling the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito remains the primary intervention to reduce the burden of disease,” says Stewart Ibarra.

Soldiers currently use a combination of repellents, insecticide impregnated uniforms and bednets to protect themselves against mosquito bites. On a wider scale, traditional methods of controlling this mosquito population by source reduction and spraying insecticides are costly and often inefficient, since the Aedes aegypti mosquito feeds and rests during daytime in the home or encampment.

Stewart Ibarra and her team are developing a device that will be lightweight, compact, and economical (each costing less than $1), ecologically more sensitive than spraying, and easily placed around a home or in deployed warfighter encampments.

The team are seeking patents for their technology in the United States and in Ecuador. Based on the results of the semi-field trial this year, they will take steps to move their prototype toward mass deployment

Upstate’s Center for Global Health & Translational Science is targeting dengue fever at various fronts through vaccine trials and overseas epidemiological studies such as Stewart Ibarra’s.