AECO

Vector biology of Aedes albopictus and eco-bio-social drivers for effective vector prevention & control in cooler ecoregions

 

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AECO

Aedes albopictus belongs to the world’s most feared mosquito species with high social and medical importance because they transmit important arthropod-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya. Under global warming, range expansions of Ae. albopictus and associated viruses to higher altitudes and latitudes have been predicted.

In order to establish scientific and technical basis in the field of Medical Entomology and One Health, the eco-bio-social research plan of the junior research group AECO focus on 1.) the vector biology of the highly invasive mosquito Aedes albopictus and 2.) eco-bio-social aspects influencing vector prevention & control practices along a climatic gradient in a dengue and chikungunya epidemic country (Nepal).

Our aims

The junior research group AECO seeks to establish scientific and technical basis in the field of Medical Entomology that could guide phenologically driven distribution models for Ae. albopictus and support one-health strategies to control significant mosquito disease vectors in different ecoregions/altitudes of Nepal. The junior research group AECO specifically aims to:

study the vector biology (plasticity of cold hardiness) of the dengue and chikungunya vector Ae. albopictus along a climatic/altitudinal gradient in order to understand the extent of adaptation of the vector to cooler ecoregions under climatic changes (subproject #1).

  • The investigation of the cold hardiness and related phenotypic plasticity in Ae. albopictus eggs along a natural climatic transect could guide species distribution models by adding important micro-ecological and phenological components in order to reduce the high uncertainty of forecasts for the potential vector presence in cooler ecoregions.


and explore eco-bio-social determinants for development of integrative and community-based mosquito prevention and control measures in specific ecoregions (subproject #2).

  • The assessment of eco-bio-social aspects for vector prevention and control of dengue and chikungunya vectors may serve as groundwork to decide if and what kinds of programs would be understandable and implementable in specific altitudinal regions of Nepal.

The practical implications of final AECO results

The anticipated understanding of the mosquito´s biology by means of field and experimental research will bring a lot of benefit for an advanced vector prevention and control and hence for an advanced public health in both, Nepal and Europe. An understanding of the ecology and in particular the adaptive potential of the significant disease vector may support estimates on the extent of adaptation and hence on its distribution. This in turn will support distribution models and further help to correctly design mosquito control measures.

The AECO research on Ae. albopictus has an increasing relevance for Germany and the European Union due the forecasted northward distribution of the mosquito and its transmitted diseases due to global warming, increased global trading, and the species` fast local adaptation. The knowledge on the species biology, inter alias its fast adaptive potential with regard to low temperature to be studied in AECO, is pivotal to provide the ground for accurate risk mapping and the development of long-term risk assessment strategies in the EU, which may provide adoption also by Non-European countries.

Finally, we will contribute knowledge on the ecoregion-specific eco-bio-social drivers for developing integrative and easy implementable prevention and control interventions to reduce Aedes mosquito populations in a dengue and chikungunya epidemic country. We will support national one-health strategies to efficiently combat dengue and chikungunya illnesses in Nepal.

AECO subprojects

The subproject #1 adds the eco-biological perspective to the junior research group AECO. The subproject #1 aims to analyse the potential association of cold hardiness and morphological and epigenetic plasticity in Ae. albopictus eggs in order to better understand the rapid adaptation of this originally tropical to subtropical species to cooler ecoregions (such as Germany). The medium term aim is to feed species distribution models with new phenological data and thereby advance the forecast of this invasive species in temperate regions under climate changes. Ae. albopictus eggs will be collected in Nepal along a climatic gradient which serves as surrogate for climate change. The subproject #1 will contribute knowledge on the ecological plasticity of the invasive disease vector Ae. albopictus for developing phenologically driven species distribution models considering rapid adaptation as trait to advance the forecast on the distribution of this mosquito species in cooler ecoregions under climate changes.

The subproject #2 adds the eco-social perspective to the junior research group AECO. The subproject #2 aims to assess the people´s knowledge and attitude on mosquito-borne diseases and their vector prevention and control practice at different altitudes. A second focus will set on the evaluation of the quality of water service and water storage behavior at different altitudes versus the actual presence/abundance of mosquito vectors in the surroundings of houses. Based on the analysis of an eco-bio-social dataset, the main drivers for the practice and social acceptance of different preventive and control measures against mosquitoes will be assessed in order to support national one-health strategies to efficiently combat dengue and chikungunya illnesses in Nepal. The subproject #2 will contribute knowledge on the ecoregion-specific eco-bio-social drivers for developing integrative and easy implementable prevention and control interventions to reduce Aedes mosquito populations in a dengue and chikungunya epidemic country.

Coordination

Dr. Ruth Müller
Department Environmental Toxicology and Medical Entomology
Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine
Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

and

Unit Medical Entomology, Department of Biomedical Sciences,

Institute of Tropical Medicine,

Antwerp, Belgium