Mosquito misery: can environmental changes reduce mosquito-transmitted disease? | 4/23/2019 | Staff
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In autumn, as the heat becomes a bit more bearable and football season approaches, people begin to spend more time outdoors where they are sure to be plagued by that quintessential Louisiana nuisance—mosquitoes. And, mosquitoes are more than just an annual annoyance. Mosquitoes are common pests and vectors for diseases. But, what if more mosquitoes were actually the solution?

Rebeca De Jesus Crespo, an assistant professor and landscape ecologist in LSU's College of the Coast & Environment, is exploring why virus-carrying mosquitoes proliferate in New Orleans and San Juan, Puerto Rico and how promoting mosquito diversity may reduce disease transmission. And, she is looking for New Orleans citizens who would like to assist in her research.

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De Jesus Crespo was part of a team of scientists that explored how habitat alteration has led to flooding and water pollution problems in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and whether these factors could be related to increasingly common outbreaks of diseases such as dengue, Zika, and chikungunya (pronounced "CHIK-ən-GUN-yə") there. They found that unlike regular rainwater, flooding in these neighborhoods may have brought an influx of nutrients in the water, which were linked to higher virus concentrations in the mosquito vectors. In another study, De Jesus Crespo found that wetland cover helped to reduce temperatures in the city of San Juan, and that this was associated with lower cases of dengue in certain neighborhoods.

San Juan and New Orleans are similar in that both are metropolitan cities experiencing an increase in flooding, water pollution and urban heat islands. Both cities contain yellow fever mosquitoes, the main mosquito vectors of Zika. Other species that could carry Zika are also present, including Asian tiger mosquitoes in New Orleans and Caribbean treehole mosquitoes in Puerto Rico.

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While all three species can bite humans and other animals, yellow fever mosquitoes prefer to...
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