Drones to airdrop hundreds of thousands of mosquitos to fight disease

One approach to fight mosquito-borne diseases is to introduce huge numbers of sterilized male mosquitos to beat out the wild males in competition for female mosquitos. The challenge is that it's expensive to airdrop the mosquitos from airplanes and often difficult to traverse developing nations by ground. Now, WeRobotics has prototyped a drone that carries hundreds of thousands of mosquitos and releases them at just the right moment. The first experiments in South or Central America will take place in the next few months. From IEEE Spectrum:

The goal is to pack as many mosquitoes as possible into the drone. However, clumping is a problem because the insects form “a big collection of legs and wings,” he says. The trick, according to Klaptocz, is to keep them inside a precooled container: “Between 4 °C and 8 °C, they’ll fall asleep, and you can pack them up fairly densely.”

It’s also important to control the release of the mosquitoes, rather than dumping them out all at once. “We tried different systems to get the mosquitoes out of the holding canister, including vibrations and a treadmill,” he says. “Right now, we’re using a rotating element with holes through which individual mosquitoes can fall.” Once the mosquitoes fall out of the canister, they spend a few seconds in a secondary chamber warming up to the outside air temperature before exiting the drone, to make sure they’re awake and ready to fly.

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Contraption to shoot mosquitos with laser beams

In development for several years, the Photonic Fence is an anti-mosquito laser weapon that's apparently now being tested in a real world situation. I hope when it hits the market it still looks like a crazy contraption from a 1960s science fiction film! From the company site:

One potential use of the Photonic Fence is to create a virtual fence that detects insects as they cross its plane. When an invading insect is detected, our software is able to estimate the insect’s size and measure its wing beat frequency. Using this method, not only can the system distinguish between mosquitoes, butterflies, and bumblebees, but it can even determine whether a mosquito is male or female. This is important to know because only female mosquitos bite humans. Once the software establishes that the insect is a valid target, it tracks the mosquito in flight, runs a safety check to ensure no innocent bystanders are in view, and then activates a laser to zap the mosquito. The Photonic Fence could be set along the perimeter of clinics or other strategic areas to control mosquitoes without endangering humans or other animals.

From Wired UK:

When Intellectual Ventures co-founder and former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold came up with the idea of a bug-killing fence in 2010, the intention was to use it to improve public health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, however, the Photonic Fence has become a commercial project with a particular target: the Asian citrus psyllid. This insect invader has reduced citrus production in Florida by at least 70 per cent over the last 15 years.

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Zika hits the US military: 33 service members now have virus, says Pentagon

Pentagon officials told reporters today that at least 33 active-duty American service members, one of whom is a pregnant woman, have Zika. Read the rest

First case of female-to-male sexually-transmitted Zika reported, in NYC

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection reported the first confirmed case of Zika transmitted from a woman to a man during sex. Previously, they thought that the disease was only likely to be sexually-transmitted from a male to female or male to male. The CDC will soon update their advisory "for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex." From CNN:

A non-pregnant woman in her 20s had unprotected vaginal sex with a male partner on the day she returned from travel to a country where Zika is circulating. The next day, she came down with Zika-like symptoms, including fever, rash, fatigue and muscle pain, along with numbness and tingling in her fingers and toes. On day three, she visited her primary care doctor, who took blood and urine samples, and sent them off to the NYC health department. Both tested positive for the virus.

On day seven after intercourse, her male partner, also in his 20s, began to show the same typical signs of Zika, such as fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, despite the fact that he had not traveled outside the United States for more than a year...

While this is the first documented case of female to male sexual transmission, it's not the first clue that the Zika virus might be hiding in the female genital tract. A case report published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal tells the story of a 27-year old Guadeloupean woman who came down with Zika in May.

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