Estate, time for mosquitoes. A particular research project now supports citizens with researchers from La Sapienza University in order to feed a national mosquito tracking plan. How? Thanks to an application called Mosquito Alertborn a couple of years ago and now entering the heart of a citizen science program.
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The projects of Sapienza
La Sapienza is at the forefront of scientific research on mosquitoes, with coordination by the Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases of both Mosquito Alert Italy project and of the wider European project Aedes Invasive Mosquito Aim-Cost Action. Mosquito Alert Italia’s partners include the Higher Institute of Health, the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Venice, the Muse of Trento and the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Bologna.
Other partners (the fundamental ones) are citizens, who can send voluntary reports to the entomologists of the task force via Mosquito Alert: by downloading it for free, the user can send both reports non-photographic photos of the bites and photos of mosquitoes or of stagnant water collections that may represent potential breeding sites of the insect such as (for example) manholes. The most passionate citizens will be able to also send mosquito specimens to the experts that they will be able to collect, under the banner of participatory science that actively involves people in research.
Born in Spain, the app has been active in Italy since 2020. Yep oltre 200mila i download, the goal of this partnership is also to push further its adoption. The broader purpose is instead to collect and validate the largest number of photographs of mosquitoes to map their species, with particular attention to tigre (Aedes albopictus) and other invasive species such as mosquitoes korean (Aedes koreicus) and that Japanese (Aedes japonicus), you have recently arrived in our country.
Italy among the most affected countries: 65 known species of mosquitoes
Our country is one of the most affected by mosquitoes in Europe, both for the number of species (65 known ones) and for their capillary distribution and density on the territoryespecially considering the invasive species: keeping them under control is important not only for their annoying bites, but above all because mosquitoes are potential vectors of pathogens for humans (from the virus Dengue to what causes Chikungunya) and to animals, which can pose a threat to public health. Among the most dangerous mosquito species as vectors is the Aedes aegypti, the so-called yellow fever mosquito, vector of many viral agents and recognizable by white spots on the paws and clear lyre-shaped bands on the chest. Currently not present in Italy, however, it requires specific surveillance.
Eat if you use Mosquito Alert
But how is Mosquito Alert used? To know the species in real time, just take a photograph of a mosquito and send the shot to the experts. Citizens’ reports, once validated, will be included in the interactive map on the Mosquito Alert Italia website and will thus be able to help target control interventions effectively. In order not to frustrate the results of disinfestations in public areas conducted by local authorities, it will be important to raise awareness among citizens also with respect to the management of private areas in which mosquitoes could develop, such as domestic stagnant water collections.
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Pay attention to the quality of the photos
“To contribute to the project, we ask citizens to download the app immediately and use it when they are bitten or manage to photograph a mosquito – he explained Beniamino Caputo, researcher of Sapienza and coordinator of Mosquito Alert Italia – The quality of the photos sent is essential for a valid identification of the species. The experts, always via smartphone, will inform the user about the photographed mosquito and will elaborate maps of the species present in the area, useful for managing and directing pest control “.
Mosquito Alert (available for iOS and Android, but also on the Web) allows citizens to join the project with 3 different levels participation: “From the simplest and most immediate notification through the app, that of bites, to the next step of sending photos of mosquitoes or breeding sites, up to the physical sending of entire specimens of mosquitoes, for the most passionate” he concluded Alessandra della Torre, coordinator of the Sapienza Medical Entomology group and chair of the Aim-Cost project.