Asian tiger mosquito gains ground in Illinois

June 04, 2020

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Researchers report that the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, has become more abundant across Illinois in the past three decades. Its spread is problematic, as the mosquito can transmit diseases - like chikungunya or dengue fever - to humans.

The Asian tiger mosquito originated in the forests of southeast Asia. It found its way to Texas around 1985 and very quickly spread to Illinois.

"The global trade in used tires facilitates the spread of the mosquito," said Chris Stone, a medical entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey and the lead author of the new study. "The eggs get stuck to the walls of the tires and can survive even in dry conditions. Tires are also great at retaining rainwater, which is perfect for the larvae to develop in."

Stone and his colleagues wanted to understand how the mosquitoes were able to spread across Illinois, given how cold the state's winters can be.

"We looked at historical records to see where the mosquito has been observed in the state. We then compared that information to the winter temperatures in different counties," said Rebecca Smith, a professor of pathobiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who led the research with Stone. "Winters are fairly warm in cities like Chicago because of all the roads and concrete. There are a lot of places like sewers and subways where these mosquitoes can live in the winter."

The spread of the Asian tiger mosquito in Illinois also is a result of repeated introductions from neighboring counties.

"We used the historical observations to look at whether the mosquitoes were present in one county during a particular five-year period, and whether they were then present in a neighboring county in the previous five-year period," Smith said.

The researchers also used genetic information to track the spread of the mosquitoes, focusing on mitochondrial DNA, which is abundant in cells. Comparing mitochondrial DNA sequences is an established method for studying the spread of mosquitoes globally.

"We found that there is a surprising diversity of Aedes albopictus in Illinois," Stone said. "Some were from the Texas population, but a few had previously been found only in Japan. This observation supports the idea that we see multiple introductions of these mosquitoes from different places."

The data was compiled from a variety of sources, the researchers said.

"We had some collections of mosquitoes from our partners in public health, and we set out some mosquito traps in counties that had not been looked at previously," Stone said. "Unfortunately, we did not have samples that went back as far as the historical observations."

Asian tiger mosquitoes are good at outcompeting other mosquitoes, the researchers said. This can have both beneficial and harmful effects.

"There have been studies from Florida and Texas where Aedes albopictus has displaced Aedes aegypti, a closely related mosquito known as the yellow fever mosquito that can transmit dengue and yellow fever," Stone said. "The implications of the establishment of the Asian tiger mosquito in Illinois on other mosquito species is a topic that needs further study."

"The ability of the Asian tiger mosquito to establish itself in Illinois could be problematic from a public health perspective," Smith said. "Although it is not as bad as the yellow fever mosquito, it has the potential to introduce diseases."

The researchers hope to expand the historical database of disease-carrying mosquitoes. "The biggest drawback with this study was that there are many places where mosquito surveillance has been limited," Smith said. "We need to increase the surveillance so that we can track the spread of these mosquitoes more comprehensively and study them more intensively."

The researchers report their findings in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
-end-
The INHS is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the U. of I.

Editor's notes:

To reach Rebecca Smith email rlsdvm@illinois.edu.

To reach Chris Stone, email cstone@illinois.edu.

The paper "Spatial, temporal, and genetic invasion dynamics of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) in Illinois" is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.

DOI: 10.1093/jme/tjaa047

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.