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Bowdoin College

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

Australia: Natural and Cultural Ecology

Abstract

Dengue fever is a potentially life-threatening illness that is endemic in over 100 countries and threatens approximately half of the world’s population. The dengue virus is transmitted between humans by a mosquito vector, principally the dengue mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This mosquito prefers to live and feed in and around people’s homes. As a result, preventing mosquito bites within a domestic setting is essential to controlling the dengue virus. Although several methods of bite prevention are currently available to the public, most of these methods only provide short-term protection from the dengue mosquito. In contrast, a recently developed synthetic pyrethroid called metofluthrin, when embedded in paper or plastic material, has been shown to effectively prevent Ae. aegypti from biting for several weeks. However, previous studies have disagreed over the ability of metofluthrin to spatially repel mosquitoes from a room. Furthermore, most metofluthrin studies have exposed large groups of mosquitoes to the chemical, and thus have not observed mosquito behavior on the individual level. The aim of this study was to use a small-scale model of a domestic setting to observe the behavior of individual Ae. aegypti when exposed to metofluthrin. The model domestic setting consisted of a large container with a window, a dark harborage area, and an entrance port through which a blood meal could be offered to the mosquito. 34 female, laboratory-reared Ae. aegypti desiring a blood meal were released into the container one at a time, and their movements through the container were recorded during a five-minute control and five-minute metofluthrin period. Metofluthrin was found to dramatically reduce the number of human landings made by the mosquito, and appeared to spatially repel the mosquito to the window of the container. These observations indicate that metofluthrin has the potential to be an effective method of controlling Ae. aegypti in a domestic setting. However, public acceptance and widespread use of metofluthrin is necessary for this mosquito control method to effectively prevent dengue outbreaks. To evaluate the efficacy of dengue education efforts in North Queensland, Australia and the likelihood that metofluthrin would be adopted as a mosquito control method in this region, 33 Cairns residents were interviewed. In general, Cairns residents were moderately knowledgeable about the dengue control techniques publicized by Queensland Health, and a high proportion expressed interest in using metofluthrin in their homes.

Disciplines

Biology | Entomology

 

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