Monitoring insects that spread disease

The insect sensor was first developed and used to study mosquito populations in Tanzania. Half of the world population lives in an area at risk for malaria. With the most vulnerable population being young children, pregnant women and travelers.

Stopping the spread of malaria and other diseases by insect vectors is an important issue which FaunaPhotonics is helping to tackle.  

A key factor in being able to control the spread of disease by mosquitoes is understanding the populations migration, immigration and breeding. Monitoring at the species level is important, because only certain mosquito species transmit diseases referred to as vector species. The species that were closely analysed in a study we were part of in Tanzania were primarily from the Anopheles genus, some of the species transmit malaria; while Aedes aegypti spreads dengue, zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. Knowing if the population of mosquitoes in an area is a vector can help bring awareness to the population if they are at risk. Our sensors can be deployed in sentinel monitoring sites and even allow scaling up to more monitoring locations to improve ability to target interventions.

During the study our sensor measured vector species abundance in the vicinity of a village before, during and after the total solar eclipse. A 1km LIDAR transect was used to monitor habitats known to harbor breeding and feeding grounds for Anopheles mosquitoes. Our insect sensor device counted over 700.000 insects in five days and observed peak activities of over 1000 insects per minute. The remote monitoring instrument profiled insect activity over the fields. LIDAR data from this field test provided our team data to cluster wild insect vectors based on sizing information and wing beat frequencies.

What’s next?

We are looking to enter projects that investigate how these insects behave and how population sizes change over time. We believe improved monitoring is necessary to better determine, which areas of the world need to be treated and re-treated with new intervention programs.