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How can technology to detect disease-carrying mosquitoes be furthered to combat the spread of disease?

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Posted Date: 04/25/2016

Mosquitoes continue to spread disease, including West Nile, malaria and Zika virus. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory are developing a technology to passively detect which mosquitoes are carrying these diseases. How can this technology be furthered to combat the spread of disease?

Red means a disease is present to Sandia National Laboratories’ researchers Cameron Ball and Robert Meagher as they test their QUASR, for quenching of unincorporated amplification signal reporters, technique to detect the presence of malaria and viruses like West Nile. Simple enough for field labs and handheld devices, QUASR’s positive signal is 10 times brighter than a negative signal. (Photo by Dino Vournas)


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As diseases like the Zika virus spread, researchers are coming up with various approaches to slow the progression of these mosquito-borne viruses. Some approaches include techniques to control the population of mosquitos through sterilization, genetically modifying mosquitos to mitigate common diseases carrying genes to further populations, methods of capturing mosquitos through host-attractant baited traps, producing transmission blocking vaccines, etc.  

Developing rapid, reliable, and portable detection technology for mosquito-borne diseases, like QUASR, is another ideal weapon to prevent outbreaks; QUASR improves on common detection techniques, which have poor distinction between disease strains and several false positives, to have a higher rate of target-specific detection.  I think the next step in detection technology is to move to real-time detection, maybe through portable/wearable sensor technology or other testing techniques; one example of real-time testing is being developed at the University of Central Florida, which uses gold nanoparticles in feed to lure mosquitos and detects biomarkers of infection inside mosquitoes that causes them to emit a warning color. Building and improving on this type of research is a step forward in early detection and prevention against these life-threatening diseases.