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Researchers Examine Invasive Alien Mosquito Species in America and Europe

Mosquito vector species transmit many pathogens and parasites to humans and animals. Current predictions show that more than half of the population on the planet is at risk of vector-borne infections. Invasive mosquitoes, such as the A. albopictus in Europe and C. coronator Dyar and Knab in America, are responsible for transmitting diseases and they are likely to adapt and thrive in urban environments in low-latitude parts of the world in comparison with native species.

These invasive species also benefit from biotic homogenization – the process by which invasions and extinctions of these species increase the genetic, taxonomic or functional similarity of two or more locations over a specified time interval. Through this process, they also benefit from the reduction in overall biodiversity by being able to increase their range and abundance.

The substantial surge in the incidence of vector-borne diseases can be partly attributed to these factors.

Miller School of Medicine’s Andre Wilke, Ph.D., a post-doctoral associate, John Beier, Sc.D., professor and director of the Division of Environment and Public Health, as well as University of Pisa’s Giovanni Benelli, Ph.D., a senior research entomologist at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, co-authored a viewpoint paper on the A. albopictus in Europe and C. coronator Dyar and Knab in America – two highly invasive mosquito species. In the paper, which was published in Plos One, they shed light on key biological, ecological, and epidemiological issues that urgently need further attention at the forefront of vector biology and control research and provide suggestions for future research on the development of control strategies.

The C. coronator – a Neotropical species native from Trinidad and Tobago – is the vector of Saint Louis encephalitis and the West Nile viruses and is becoming a public health concern in the Americas. In the United States, they have been found in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In Miami-Dade, there have been 26,825 female C. coronator collected in urban areas from May 2016 to November 2019. The species was also found in Tennessee and in Virginia. 

The A. albopictus, more recently found by the world trade of used tires, is a primary vector of the chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika viruses. It has been mainly found in several Western European countries, such as in Albania, Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Germany. The species was also found in Southern England.

“It is currently unknown what mechanisms are employed by invasive mosquito species to disperse, establish and thrive in urban environments. There are no effective contingency plans to guide mosquito control operations to deal with this increasing threat,” Dr. Wilke said.

Because of this, Dr. Wilke, Dr. Beier, and Dr. Benelli suggested a framework for future research on the development of control strategies to prevent the invasion, establishment, and colonization of new areas by alien mosquito vectors. These suggestions included the development of basic information on how and why invasive vector species are becoming locally abundant in urban environments, as well as the development of profiles of basic ecology and behavior for new and neglected invasive mosquito species to clarify their potential importance as vectors.

Other suggestions included an increase in awareness about the potential presence of invasive mosquito species to avoid their underestimation or even failure in detecting them due to misidentification of specimens or surveillance strategies disregarding their habitats and an assessment of current and future risks to determine if some invasive species should be considered a higher priority for vector control operations.

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on January 21, 2020