Australia prepares to fight Mozzie threat

Asian tiger mosquito. Photo / James Gathany
Asian tiger mosquito. Photo / James Gathany

Australia is preparing for an invasion by an aggressive and exotic pest that threatens to spread dengue fever to southern capitals.

Queensland scientists have begun breeding the Asian tiger mosquito, a highly invasive species that can bite dozens of times a minute.

They are closely studying the country's only colony of the insect, caged behind a series of locked doors in Brisbane's QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

Associate Professor Greg Devine says the research is vital given the mosquito's potential to introduce the debilitating chikungunya virus and spread diseases such as dengue to capital cities.

"What we'd like to understand is the real risk of transmission in urban centres like Brisbane and Sydney," he said.

"We are also looking at the way it would interact with native mosquitoes so we can determine how rapid its impact will be."

But its greatest impact will be on Australia's outdoor lifestyle because it thrives in and around homes and bites all day.

"It's come to be known as the barbecue stopper, and for good reason," Devine said.

The large and aggressive mosquito is capable of spreading several diseases, including Ross River virus, yellow fever and chikungunya. There is no treatment for the chikungunya virus, common in Southeast Asia, which can leave sufferers with severe joint pain for months.

When the Asian tiger mosquito will invade Australia is not known but Devine said it would be a case of when, not if.

"It's definitely only a matter of time," he said.

"There is no doubt it is coming eventually because it's been picked up so many times at Australia's borders."

- Herald on Sunday

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