Frugal Science: Improving Health Across the Globe

Troy Brown, RN


June 15, 2017

In This Article

Low-Cost Mosquito Surveillance Technologies

Insect-borne diseases are one of the major causes of death worldwide, and many developing regions have problems with such mosquito-borne illnesses as malaria, dengue, and Zika virus infection, but resources to control vectors are limited.

Researchers from Dr Prakash's lab have developed two ways to help scientists stay ahead of epidemics by monitoring mosquitoes that transmit these infections: the VectorChip and the Abuzz mosquito surveillance system.

VectorChip uses low-cost hydrogel-based microfluidic chips, baited with odorants, to collect nanoliter-volume saliva droplets from thousands of single mosquito bites. From these, the mosquito and pathogen species for human-biting mosquitoes and numerous pathogens, including Zika virus, dengue virus, and malaria, can be identified.

Current vector surveillance techniques use humans to capture vectors manually by acting as live bait; mosquitoes are then manually dissected to isolate salivary glands and identify the presence of sporozoites. Because typical vector infection rates can be very low even in endemic regions, it is extremely hard to determine disease distribution in space and time.[11] This invention will allow continuous and detailed monitoring of mosquito-borne infections to enable researchers to develop ways to control their spread.

Researchers from Dr Prakash's lab also developed Abuzz, a way to for citizens to use mobile telephones to conduct widespread acoustic mosquito surveillance.[12] The phones are used as sensitive microphones to record species-specific wingbeat sounds from various disease-transmitting mosquitoes for identification and analysis. The wingbeats of male mosquitoes have higher frequencies than those of females of the same species; thus, researchers can use acoustic monitoring to determine the sex of mosquitoes as well.[13]

Haripriya Mukundarajan, PhD student, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, and colleagues described their invention. "We exploit the insight that these ubiquitous, highly portable devices are optimized for sophisticated audio processing and computing capabilities, and connected by a data transmission infrastructure supporting over 5 billion users globally, leading to multiple applications in citizen science and crowdsourced data gathering," they wrote.[13]

"Specifically, the explosive growth in mobile phone use is most pronounced in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which also bear the brunt of the impact of mosquito-borne disease. This juxtaposition implies that our mobile phone based concept has the advantages of scalability, sustainability and cost effectiveness, in collecting on-the-ground data on mosquito activity in resource-constrained areas," they explained.[13]

The researchers still need to fine-tune their invention: They will need to be able to distinguish between many mosquitoes flying at once, and in various background conditions.


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