London Underground mozzie an Aussie threat

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

It's known as the London Underground mosquito because it feasted on the blood of Londoners who sought shelter there during WWII bombing raids.

But now Australian researchers are concerned the blood sucker may be spreading diseases such as Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus Down Under.

Researchers from the University of Sydney say the London Underground mozzie, or Culex molestus, has been largely ignored by Australian scientists for 50 years.

But Dr Cameron Webb says new research published in the current Australian Journal of Entomology contains some worrying findings.

"One of the most important findings of this study was that ... the mosquito remains active over cooler months, whereas almost all other mosquitoes disappear during winter," Dr Webb said.

"The mosquito is unique in that it prefers to live in underground environments but there are now concerns regarding the role this mosquito may play in the transmission of mosquito-borne viruses in Australian cities."

He said it's a common misconception that mosquito-borne diseases are limited to northern states and they are now being reported at the fringes of cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Genetic analysis of the London Underground mosquito indicates it was introduced from Japan, hitching a ride to Victoria with the Australian military during World War II.

Dr Webb says the mosquito's unusual underground habitat makes it difficult for local authorities to deal with.

"As we increase water storage in metropolitan regions of Australia, we must be careful not to create new underground habitats for this pest mosquito," he said.

The London Underground mosquito has been collected at 230 locations across the country, though none have been reported in the Northern Territory or Queensland.

- AAP

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