Elevated mild air pollution may have an effect on the transmission of illnesses by mosquitoes


Artificial light in unusual ways increases mosquito bite behavior in a species that normally prefer to bite people during the day. This is based on research by the University of Notre Dame published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The increased biting of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which usually fly and bite in the early morning and afternoon, underscores concerns that increased light pollution could affect the transmission of diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and zika.

“This is possibly a very legitimate problem that shouldn’t be overlooked,” said Giles Duffield, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, also affiliated with the Eck Institute for Global Health and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program. Unlike other species that may emerge from the forest to feed on humans and animals, Aedes aegypti evolved with humans and prefers to feed on them.

“They live and breed near houses, so Aedes aegypti is very likely to be exposed to light pollution,” he added.

To conduct the experiment, the study’s lead author, Samuel SC Rund, a staff member with the Department of Biological Sciences, allowed caged mosquitoes to bite their arms under controlled conditions, including during the day, night, or night when exposed to artificial light .

The female mosquitoes -; the only ones who bite -; were twice as likely to bite or feed blood at night when exposed to artificial light. 29 percent of the mosquitoes in the control group who had no light ate at night, while 59 percent of the mosquitoes were exposed to artificial light that was fed with blood.

The results will help epidemiologists better understand the true risk of disease transmission from this species. The discovery could also lead to further recommendations for the use of the bed net.

Mosquito nets are usually used at night to repel bites from another genus of mosquitoes, Anopheles. However, since Aedes aegypti has been shown to be stimulated by artificial light, mosquito nets could also be used in areas where there is a likelihood of disease transmission with limited Anopheles activity.

The implications of this research could be enormous and have likely been overlooked. Epidemiologists may want to consider light pollution when predicting infection rates. “

Giles Duffield, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Notre Dame University

Duffield and his co-workers plan to experiment with additional artificial light variables to further investigate the biting activity of Aedes aegypti. These variables include the duration of the light, its intensity and color, and when it was bitten -; whether early at night or later.

The team is also interested in the molecular genetic pathways that may be linked to biting activity after finding that not every mosquito in the population studied was interested in biting at night, even in artificial light.

“So we believe that the Aedes aegypti species has a genetic component,” said Duffield.


Journal reference:

Rund, SSC et al. (2020) Artificial light at night increases the mosquito bite behavior of Aedes aegypti with effects on the transmission of arbovirus diseases. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-0885.

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