Five examples of high-impact innovation
Like all modern warfare, the classic battle of man vs mosquito has evolved over time. Where once stood a lonely flyswatter, taking out enemy fliers one or two at a time, now find fleets of drones or genetically engineered mosquitos or laser fences, born of innovation and ready to escalate the fight.
Below are five examples of recent advances in mosquito tech.
Fences of lasers
In 2010, former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold proposed in a TED talk, that we deal with malaria in the developing world by blasting mosquitos with a network of lasers. It’s no small problem to tackle – malaria is one of the world’s great public health concerns. In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases – an increase of about 5 million over the previous year – and 445,000 deaths.
The system would listen for the sound of mosquito wings, lock onto their location, and then zap them with a low-power laser. These devices would function as a fence around a home or village, and could potentially eliminate 99 percent of mosquitos who enter the area. This idea has attracted the attention of many interested parties, including the U.S. Commerce Department.
If researchers from the University of Oxford have anything to say about it, your phone will become a key tool in cataloging dangerous mosquitos. They have created an app which, through machine learning, identifies the acoustic signature of individual mosquito species. It correctly identifies the culprit responsible for spreading malaria (Anopheles) around 72 percent of the time with hopes to extend that accuracy to cover all 3,600 mosquito species in existence.
The app has been designed for budget Android smartphones, making it accessible to a wider population in those areas hardest hit by malaria.
Drones, drones, drones
As has been written previously on this blog, drones are fairly new, though powerful, entrant into the mosquito fighting game. We Robotics plans to breed sterile mosquitoes in captivity, transport them by drone, and dump them in an area where they will massively outnumber (and thus outbreed) the number of wild males. The hope is that this could reduce local mosquito populations by up to 90 percent.
Unlike other aerial methods of mosquito prevention, drones are far less damaging to the environment and the mosquito-on-mosquito action supersedes any need for pesticide. It is also scalable over a far larger area than releasing them on the ground.
As mean and scary as mosquitos tend to seem, they are cowering weaklings when it comes to thunderstorms. Rather than continue biting humans, they will seek shelter as a storm approaches. A company called Nopixgo sensed an opportunity and created a wristband which emits weak electromagnetic signals that convinces mosquitoes that a storm is on the way.
When mosquitoes hear the signal, they become more passive and fly closer to the ground in search of lower vegetation and protection. The instinct to survive overrides the instinct for blood. The mosquitos are helpless to resist, as their own genetics dictates they cannot adapt and avoid. The wristband is rechargeable and has a battery life of around one week before needing to be replenished.
Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, scientists from Johns Hopkins University have engineered malaria-resistant mosquitos by deleting a gene which helps the disease survive in the insect’s gut. This may prove useful in parts of the developing world where the disease is common. Effective treatment requires what is known as “active compliance and participation,” requiring regular regimens of antimalarial drugs, the removal of larval breeding sites, and active use of bed nets. When resources for daily living are scarce, these additional protocols can be difficult to maintain.
Another example of effective mosquito recruitment is a Kentucky company called MosquitoMate. They have developed a unique tool to control the spread of the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). The non-biting, male variety carry a bacterium named Wolbachia, common to half of all insects worldwide. MosquitoMate engineers, these insects to deliver a potent insecticide. The females still lay eggs, but they don’t hatch. The EPA gave its blessing for the plan last year.
While these grand innovations take their place on the world stage, your home needs its own protection, such as an automated misting system. Contact us today for a free, on-site consultation.