The suspects are bloodthirsty and remorseless, but no more so than the general population. The challenge for investigators is distinguishing from about 300 species of mosquito the dozen or so that present a present danger to humans. Cutting-edge technology developed for investigating crime scenes is now being adapted for mosquitoes, in a bid to contain the health risks posed by those carrying viruses. Last summer was the worst on record for Ross River virus outbreaks, mostly in northern NSW and Queensland, and it took health authorities by surprise. NSW Health Pathology mosquito researcher Cameron Webb is collaborating with interstate colleagues on a process of barcoding the DNA of mosquitoes. Their goal is to identify which species are most likely to cause disease. “We’re trying to learn from what happened last summer, so in the years to come we’re better able to predict when these outbreaks might occur,” Dr Webb said. Thirty councils around the state are sending weekly mosquito samples to NSW Health under the arbovirus surveillance program. They are caught in carbon dioxide traps, which trick mosquitoes into believing a warm-blooded animal is nearby. After identifying the species under a microscope, scientists mash some with a mortar and pestle […]
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