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Europe under threat by tiger mosquito

Nicosia: 16th February 2016

New research by The Cyprus Institute reveals that the tiger mosquito that is related to those transmitting Zika in Latin America is expected to spread further within Europe in the near future.

A new publication by Erguler and co-workers at The Cyprus Institute conducted in collaboration with British and German research institutions shows that the tiger mosquito, a possible carrier of Zika and other notorious viruses, can more easily spread over Europe than previously thought. The researchers employed high-resolution atmospheric circulation models and mosquito population dynamics models to investigate the global suitability to the spreading and establishment of the tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. The tiger mosquito is known to carry Dengue and Chikungunya viruses and is also suspected to be capable of carrying Zika. The research reveals that the present-day climate in Europe is suitable for tiger mosquito spreading as far north as Germany, Belgium, northern France, UK and Ireland. This mosquito has recently invaded Europe and is now common in south European countries during and around summer months.

At present there is no evidence of indigenous Zika transmission in Europe, and the few reported cases are imported. In Latin America, the virus is transmitted through bites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that is not present in mainland Europe. However, it is strongly suspected that the tiger mosquito that is closely related to Aedes aegypti can also carry Zika, but this is not yet documented. The symptoms of Zika are commonly mild and resolve within a few days. However, an association of microcephaly and underdevelopment of the brain in foetuses and newborn babies is strongly suspected. The disease has been also linked to damage of the nerves, known as Guillain–Barré syndrome.

To enable public access to the findings of this research, The Cyprus Institute has developed an online interactive risk-assessment tool for global monitoring of current and future risks of tiger mosquito. The tool is available at http://vbd.cyi.ac.cy and is updated regularly with improved predictions and global surveillance data.

map

Relative suitability of tiger mosquito establishment in Europe and the Mediterranean. Northern Italy, where the tiger mosquito is present, is chosen as reference with a suitability of 1 (red).

References
1. Erguler K, Smith-Unna SE, Waldock J, Proestos Y, Christophides GK, Lelieveld J, Parham PE. Large-scale modelling of the environmentally-driven population dynamics of temperate Aedes albopictus (Skuse). PLOS ONE. 2016; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149282
(http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149282)

2. Proestos Y, Christophides G, Erguler K, Tanarhte M, Waldock J, Lelieveld J. Present and future projections of habitat suitability of the Asian tiger mosquito, a vector of viral pathogens, from global climate simulation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 2015. 370 20130554; DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0554. Published 16 February 2015
(http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/370/1665/20130554)

3. Global risk of tiger mosquito invasion: http://vbd.cyi.ac.cy

4. VigiLab: http://www.vigilab.org

* Front page image sourced from www.vectorbase.com

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