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Cemeteries can be breeding sites for vector mosquitoes, study finds

In a paper published in PLOS One, University of Miami and Miller School of Medicine researchers, in collaboration with the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Division, found that vector mosquitoes can abundantly proliferate in cemeteries in urban areas.

“Surveillance of problematic areas for the proliferation of vector mosquitoes in urban environments, such as cemeteries, is key to not only better understand how mosquito species may be exploiting these habitats, but also to assess the spreading of invasive species in urban areas,” said study lead author Andre B. B. Wilke, Ph.D., a post-doctoral associate at the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

To conduct the study, a total of nine mosquito species were collected in 12 cemeteries in Miami-Dade County. The Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, and Culex quinquefasciatus were the most common and abundant species, which comprised of 98 percent of all specimens collected.

Researchers noted that flower vases collect rainwater where mosquitoes breed in great numbers. Simple practices that could help decrease the number of mosquitoes in these areas are drilling holes or adding larvicide to the vases. By doing this, water would not accumulate and mosquitoes would not breed.

Without these measures, “cemeteries tend to play a very important role in outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika,” said Chalmers Vazquez from the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Division, who co-authored the study. “In different occasions, the Mosquito Control Division has responded to imported cases of dengue in close proximity to cemeteries to avoid the establishment of active disease transmission in the highly populated areas.”

While the role of cemeteries in the proliferation of vector mosquitoes has been studied for many years, the mosquito community composition varies from place to place. The availability of resources, climate variations, as well as the increase in global temperatures due to global warming of each place have to be taken into consideration.

“The demonstration that cemeteries are important sources of vector mosquitoes highlights the risks to nearby residents,” said study co-author John Beier, Sc.D., an internationally renowned entomologist and professor at the Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences. “Miami-Dade Mosquito Control is now aware and can take appropriate steps to control mosquitoes in problematic cemeteries, especially during periods of arbovirus outbreaks.” 

Read the full study here

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on April 20, 2020