Just squashed a mosquito? Post a picture of it and help fight the spread of diseases
The Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam is using a unique tactic to identify the breeding grounds of disease-causing mosquitos. Users of the Mosquito Alert App can post a picture of their mosquito bite or a mosquito they just killed on the app where it will be reviewed by researchers. Scientists hope to be able to track the spread of mosquitos that cause diseases.
The photos are reviewed by an expert who determines if the mosquito is a disease-carrying type. A second expert then checks if the verdict of the first expert was correct. The more recognizable the dead mosquito is the better. Photos of mosquito bites can also come in handy but do not indicate which mosquito bit the person.
“People seem to enjoy participating in this research”, said Maarten Hoek, program manager of the research project, in an interview with Rijnmond.
Last year several people contracted the West Nile virus in the Netherlands after being bitten by a mosquito. The majority of people do not display symptoms after becoming infected with the West Nile virus. In severe cases, the infected person can develop a severe neurological disease, such as brain inflammation.
The risk of other tropical infectious diseases has been increasing in the past years in the Netherlands due to climate change. “It is only a matter of time before diseases such as malaria come here”, Hoek said. “In ten years, sleeping under a mosquito net may become the norm.” The average mosquito in the Netherlands can also transmit tropical diseases, such as malaria.
The more pictures, the better is the motto the researchers have. The Mosquito Alert App was initially successfully launched in Spain where it has collected more than 18 thousand pictures. Thanks to the data, researchers were able to accurately map the distribution of the Asian tiger mosquito. The app is now available in 17 countries.