The impact of mosquitoes as disease-transporting carriers depends strongly on what species of animal they bite, and also when and where the blood-feeding occurs. Research in the 1960s and 70s at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Lab (FMEL) in Vero Beach, Fla. provided the first comprehensive studies on the feeding patterns of nearly all the region’s mosquito species. This work is still providing greater insight into how diseases like dengue, chikungunya and Zika spread. Because these studies extended across habitats and seasons, researchers were able to detect and track when mosquito species switched from one host to another (often seasonally) to facilitate the maintenance of some arboviruses during transmission.
Accurate and rapid identification of disease agents is a critical component of the surveillance and control of mosquito-transported arboviruses, so more recently, UF/IFAS researchers developed a single-tube PCR amplification assay that can identify 22 mosquito-transported RNA viruses. This assay system is highly sensitive and has the ability to distinguish between closely related viruses, including the detection of as few as six to 10 dengue virions in a single mosquito.
UF/IFAS researchers have a proven record of research accomplishments in the biology of many mosquito species, and these accomplishments are just a few of many. Important offshoots of this research include recognition and first descriptions of host defensive behaviors, which reduced mosquito-feeding rates on some local birds, especially salt-marsh species. These scientists are also pioneering the use of FTA cards (cards that preserve viruses on honey-coated surfaces from which female mosquitoes sugar-feed) both for detecting arboviruses circulating in nature and for measuring the capacity of laboratory-infected mosquitoes to transmit diseases.