The Asian tiger mosquito (James Gathany, CDC)

Aggressive mosquito continues worldwide invasion

27 November, 2012, James Hardy

Scientists are concerned that Australia could be the next country to be conquered by the Asian tiger mosquito, a species which can transmit a range of diseases that can cause fever and severe joint pain, including dengue fever.

The mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is of particular concern for Australia because of its ability to survive in different environments and adapt [frax09alpha]to cooler climates.

Aedes albopictus is much more tolerant of cooler temperatures than the dengue fever mosquito currently found in North Queensland,” says Dr Jonathan Darbro of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Mosquito Control Laboratory.

“So if it becomes established in Australia there is a possibility that it may spread as far south as Sydney and Melbourne, which could lead to outbreaks of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.”

Chikungunya and dengue are viruses that cause debilitating diseases that can result in fever, headaches and joint pain. In certain cases, dengue fever can also lead to a life-threatening condition known as dengue haemorrhagic fever.

While the invasive mosquito continues to spread throughout European countries, strict biosecurity measures and a monitoring program on Cape York have so far prevented it from establishing itself in Australia.

However, the mosquito has been detected several times in the last year at North Queensland ports, arriving in car tyres imported from Papua New Guinea.

“There are multiple routes of entry into Australia for Aedes albopictus,” Dr Darbro says.

“Researchers are currently looking at all of these pathways to determine the most effective way to manage the risks to prevent the mosquito becoming established in Australia.”

The spread of the mosquito was a hot topic discussed amongst the group of international scientists attending the 10th Mosquito Control Association of Australia Symposium, held during September on the Gold Coast.

Delegates from Europe presented the latest research that shows the mosquito is well-established in many European countries and is continuing to spread, with dire consequences.

Silvia Ciocchetta from the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, a research institute in Italy, says the mosquito is now common throughout Italy and was responsible for recent outbreaks of West Nile virus and chikungunya.

“In 2007 the Asian tiger mosquito caused an outbreak of chikungunya, infecting about 250 people,” she says.

“This mosquito is has been found in most regions of Italy, so the whole country is now potentially exposed to disease outbreaks.”

The mosquito was introduced to Italy in the early 1990s through the importation of used car tyres from the USA.

Aedes albopictus has expanded from its native home range of Southeast Asia with the help of the worldwide transportation of goods.

Its range includes parts of the USA, Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and a number of islands in the Torres Strait.

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