Lucky bamboo source of mosquitos that can cause diseases

What do lucky bamboo and second-hand car tyres have in common? They both bring tiger mosquitoes to the Netherlands from Southeast Asia. PhD candidate Adolfo Ibañez-Justicia performed a risk analysis for the NVWA.
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PhD candidate Adolfo Ibañez-Justicia performed a risk analysis for the NVWA.

Ibañez, a researcher at the Vector Monitoring Centre of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), determined where and when exotic mosquitoes such as the tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito were introduced in the Netherlands. He also examined the factors that led to their arrival and the options for combatting them. Such an analysis is urgently needed as the Netherlands is an increasingly attractive destination for these insects.

Port of Rotterdam
The Spanish researcher found most mosquitoes at plant nurseries growing lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana or braunii) and businesses trading in second-hand car tyres. The tiger mosquitoes lay their eggs in the plants or tyres in the country of origin. The plants and tyres (plus eggs) then enter the Netherlands via the port of Rotterdam. The eggs hatch as soon as they come into contact with water. The yellow fever mosquito flies here in containers from North America and the Middle East that arrive in the Netherlands via Schiphol, according to measurements Ibañez did at the airport.

 It seems impossible to keep the insect out altogether 

The tiger mosquito is on the rise in various countries around us, says Sander Koenraadt, Ibañez’s co-supervisor. ‘As a result, it seems impossible to keep the insect out altogether. But Ibañez’s research means that we now know where to find the exotic mosquitoes.’ The NVWA can adapt its monitoring to take account of this. That will increase the number of finds, after which the mosquito can be actively combatted.

Engue fever
The situation in the Netherlands seems reasonably under control, concludes Ibañez, but his PhD research shows that we cannot rule out an exotic mosquito species settling in the Netherlands. That could lead to health risks as the mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya. But Koenraadt puts this into perspective: it will only happen if we also import the viruses and if the climate is suitable for the viruses to complete their development in the mosquitoes. That risk is ‘very small, but it’s not zero either’. AS

Adolfo Ibanez-Justicia promoted on februari 1st at Willem Takken, Professor of Medical and Veterinary Entomology.

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