Dengue mosquitos hitch rides on Amazon river boats

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | June 23, 2015

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The urban mosquito that carries the dengue fever virus is hitching rides on river boats connecting the Amazonian town of Iquitos, Peru, with rural areas.

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases published a study by disease ecologists at Emory University, showing how the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is normally associated with urban areas, is tapping human transportation networks to expand its range.

“The majority of large barges we surveyed were heavily infested,” says Sarah Anne Guagliardo, who led the study as a PhD student in the lab of Uriel Kitron, chair of Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences. “As the barges move across the Peruvian Amazon they are carrying large populations of these mosquitos, which can transmit many viral diseases, the most important of which is dengue fever.”

Like the housefly, Aedes aegypti is perfectly adapted to the domestic life of humans. It especially thrives in densely populated urban areas, since it feeds almost exclusively on human blood and has a limited flight range of about 100 meters.

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