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USDA Cooperative Agreement funds mosquito project at Rutgers

New Brunswick, NJThe Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers New Jersey Experiment Station (NJAES) is a major partner in a recent USDA Cooperative Agreement aimed at using integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to suppress the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) across the country. The $3.8 million, five-year proposal is funded by the Agricultural Research Service as one of its area-wide IPM projects.

The introduction of the Asian tiger mosquito into the U.S. was one of the most significant public health events of the past quarter-century, said Robert M. Goodman, executive dean of agriculture and natural resources at Rutgers. Health officers concerned with vector-borne disease recognize this mosquito as an efficient laboratory vector of more than thirty arboviruses, in particular dengue, chickungunya, and even yellow fever. We created the Center for Vector Biology at NJAES in 2006 to address these types of public health risks.

The Center for Vector Biology will be a partner with the USDAs Mosquito and Fly Research Unit in Gainesville, Florida in its suppression of the mosquito. In addition, Rutgers scientists will collaborate with officers from Monmouth and Mercer County Mosquito Control Agencies to use education and community involvement, as well as mosquito surveillance and control to systematically attack all life stages of this invasive pest. Brandeis University economists will analyze the costs and benefits at all stages of the project. The objective is to create a cost-effective program to control the Asian tiger mosquito. In the fifth year, the program will be extended to ten or more mosquito control programs across the country.

Introduced into the U.S. in 1985, the Asian tiger mosquito now infests thirty states and continues to spread. In addition to being a potential vector of debilitating epidemics, it is also regarded as the most significant nuisance mosquito across its range. Asian tiger mosquitoes are aggressive day-biters that cause skin problems and allergic reactions. They thrive in artificial containers, particularly in urban areas where human-mosquito contact is maximal.

We will partner with control agencies representing diverse regions in the U.S., said Mark Robson, director of NJAES. These agencies will form focal points for expanding the suppression program to additional surrounding agencies in a snowball effect. The impact of the successful outcome of this project will be effective and safe mosquito IPM throughout the United States, providing citizens better opportunities for outdoor activities.

Indeed, one upshot of this project will be assessing whether reduced bites result in increased outdoor physical activity, especially by children--a finding that would have tremendous implications in our efforts to reduce child obesity said John Worobey, professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

The Asian tiger mosquito is now responsible for most complaints to local mosquito control programs in New Jersey and elsewhere, yet the standard approaches to mosquito abatement fail with this species, said Dina Fonseca, a professor at the Center for Vector Biology. We will develop a multidisciplinary approach grounded by an economic analysis, involving focused application of established biological and chemical control interventions, but emphasizing reduction of mosquito habitats by an extensive public education and involvement. As a result, large grassroots community outreach programs spearheaded by George Hamilton, extension specialist in entomology and also a member of the center, will be critical to the program.

Other important outcomes of the project will be the demonstration of practical and sustainable area-wide control; a model for area-wide Asian tiger mosquito management; reduced application of insecticides; community-wide involvement in mosquito management; and enhanced understanding of the economics related to control of pest and nuisance mosquitoes, said Randy Gaugler, director of the Center for Vector Biology. Our chief product will be an IPM manual for the Asian tiger mosquito that can be used anywhere in the country, with the aim of reducing this invasive pest to a minor status.

The project involves 12 investigators: Dina Fonseca (the principal investigator), Randy Gaugler, George Hamilton, Mark Robson and John Worobey from Rutgers University; Donald Shepard and Jose Suaya from Brandeis University; Ary Farajollahi from Mercer County Mosquito Control, and Sean Healy from the Monmouth County Mosquito Extermination Commission; Gary Clark and Daniel Kline from USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-Gainesville, FL and Daniel Strickman, USDA/ARS-Beltsville, MD.


Contact: Michele Hujber
732-932-7000 x4204
Rutgers University

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