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Midge-hunting scientists tackle spread of devastating bluetongue virus
Date:8/7/2008

to understand how these outbreaks occur and what can be done to slow their progress. We have to think to ourselves: "when are the midges going to be active and what can we do to put a barrier between our livestock and these midges?" We will use our models to advise on best practice for measures such as stabling, insecticide use and vaccination, to control the spread of bluetongue virus."

The team has developed two methods to monitor the flying and biting behaviour of the Culicoides midge that spreads the disease, under particular weather conditions. The first uses a large net of known volume mounted on top of a 4x4 truck, which is driven through grazing land. By driving at a constant speed of 20mph over a known distance the scientists can precisely calculate the volume of air passing through the net and therefore calculate the number of Culicoides midges per cubic metre of air. All of the insects caught in the net are taken back to the lab to sort out the Culicoides midges from other insects, including different midge species.

The second method focuses on the biting rate of the midges and uses a large muslin tent, the walls of which are lowered around a penned grazing sheep after an exposure period of ten minutes. The scientists then enter the tented area and collect any midges that have landed on the walls and ceiling of the tent as well as examining the sheep for any further biting individuals. These midges can then be analysed in the lab to establish which species is carrying out the biting.

Dr Carpenter continued: "The benefit of these techniques is that, until very recently, midge surveillance relied upon the use of light traps that sometimes do not represent what is happing on animals particularly well. Using these two techniques we can more easily understand the relationship between weather conditions and both background midge activity and biting attacks, and also predict the level of risk at different times of the year. Thes
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Contact: Nancy Mendoza
press.office@bbsrc.ac.uk
44-017-934-13355
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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