Vector biology of the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus and the socio-ecological factors for its prevention and control in cooler ecoregions
The Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus is of enormous social and medical relevance as a carrier of infectious diseases (such as chikungunya and dengue fever). Under global warming, A. albopictus and probably also the associated viruses will spread to cooler ecoregions.
The AECO research project aims to
- to understand the cold tolerance of the invasive mosquito A. albopictus at physiological, ultrastructural and epigenetic levels and
- to identify and compare significant social-ecological factors for their prevention and control in different ecoregions in a dengue and chikungunya-endemic country (Nepal)
The junior research group AECO aims to generate new scientific and technical foundations in the field of medical entomology to drive phenologically driven species distribution models for Ae. albopictus and thus support one-health strategies regarding vector control of significant mosquito-borne diseases in different ecoregions/altitudes in Nepal. The junior research group AECO aims in particular to investigate the vector biology (plasticity of winter hardiness) of the dengue and chikungunya vector Ae. albopictus along a climatic altitudinal gradient to understand the extent of the vector's adaptation to cooler ecoregions under climatic changes (subproject # 1) and to investigate the socio-ecological factors for the development of integrative and community-based prevention and control measures regarding mosquitoes in specific ecoregions (subproject # 2).
The study of cold hardness and related phenotypic plasticity in Ae. albopictus eggs along a natural climatic transect could improve species distribution models by adding important microecological and phenological components, thus reducing the high uncertainty of predictions of potential vector presence in cooler ecoregions.
The evaluation of socio-ecological aspects for the vector prevention and control of dengue and chikungunya vectors can serve as a basis for deciding whether and which programmes are understandable and implementable in certain high altitude regions of Nepal.
The final AECO „products“
- Knowledge of the ecological plasticity of the invasive disease vector Ae. albopictus.
- Phenologically driven species distribution models that take into account the rapid adaptability of the mosquito to cooler ecoregions
- Improved projections of species distribution under climate change conditions.
- Knowledge of ecoregion-specific socio-ecological drivers of Aedes-associated zoonoses
- New integrative and easily implemented prevention and control interventions to reduce the Aedes mosquito population.
The aim of subproject #1 is to analyse the potential relationship between the cold hardiness of Ae. albopictus eggs and their morphological and epigenetic plasticity in order to better understand the rapid adaptability of this originally tropical mosquito species to cooler ecoregions (e.g. Germany). Subproject #1 also aims to improve existing species distribution models, as phenological data will now also be included in the modelling. This modelling strategy will in particular improve the projection of the species distribution of Ae. albopictus in cooler ecoregions under climate change conditions. Ae. albopictus eggs are collected in Nepal along a climatic gradient, representative of climatic change.
Subproject #2 aims to assess knowledge and attitudes towards mosquito-borne diseases and the related prevention and control measures at different altitudes. A second focus will be to assess the quality of drinking water supply and the behaviour towards drinking water storage at different altitudes in comparison to the presence / abundance of mosquitoes in the vicinity of residential buildings. Based on the socio-ecological data set, the main drivers for prevention and control measures and their social acceptance will be assessed in order to support national one-health strategies for efficient control of dengue and chikungunya diseases in Nepal.
Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller
Department of Enviromental Toxicology and Medical Entomology
Institute of Industrial medicine, social medicine and environmental medicine
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main