PICTURE: Mosquito traps in Baltimore, Maryland view More
Photo credit: Lena McBean, University of Maryland
In a new study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, University of Maryland (UMD) researchers found higher rates of mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus in low-income areas in urban areas of Baltimore, Maryland. This preliminary data continues in collaboration with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, building on previous work that found larger mosquitoes (which may be more likely to transmit disease) in low-income areas. They provide another piece of the puzzle that indicates a higher risk of mosquitos. transmitted diseases like the West Nile virus in these neighborhoods already grappling with environmental injustices and poorer health outcomes. This paper highlights the need to do more research in low-income communities to inform policies and programs that can protect the health of the most vulnerable.
“To effectively address environmental injustices, we need to understand where and why they occur,” says Sarah Rothman, a PhD student in environmental science and technology at UMD and lead author of this paper. “Sampling of urban mosquitoes is often done in city parks or other areas where traps are easily accessible to staff. However, we need to ensure that we check for mosquitoes in areas of different socio-economic status. Representative monitoring is the first step. Only after identifying where the risk of disease is actually greatest can we direct public health resources to communities that need them most. “
According to Paul Leisnham, Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Technology at UMD, this study is a first step in the fight against environmental justice and establishes another important link between low-income neighborhoods and risky mosquito populations. “Two types of mosquito have been shown to be more infected, the invasive tiger mosquito and the northern house mosquito. In previous studies, we have shown that mosquito incidence and the height of women, two other environmental parameters that promote virus transmission, are also greater Now we’ve introduced another piece of the puzzle that points to higher risks in lower income areas. ”
Leisnham spends a lot of time interacting with locals in urban Baltimore through its research and expansion efforts, highlighting an important point for mosquito population growth that isn’t exactly intuitive: “Less trash, fewer mosquitos.” Surprisingly, mosquitoes can reproduce in an amount of water as small as what collects in a bottle cap left outside in a shaded area for four or five days. If the water collects in a shady container and does not enter the soil through managed rainwater practices, it can easily become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that can spawn hundreds of biting adults.
Cary Institute’s disease ecologist, Shannon LaDeau, said, “More people are living in cities. At the same time, many other species are adapting to urban life. Invasive species like the tiger mosquito are increasingly thriving in urban temperate areas. Living below us and fundamentally change the risk of local diseases occurring. People who live in areas with abandoned infrastructure are at greater risk because tiger mosquitoes thrive in less cultivated landscapes. “
As the link between vacant lots, more trash and more mosquitoes is being made, more research is needed to further link these environmental inequalities to higher human infection rates. “The incidence of West Nile virus in the human population is often underestimated,” says Rothman. “Most cases are asymptomatic, and mildly symptomatic cases can easily be confused with other illnesses similar to the flu. We are likely to miss cases particularly in underserved populations with limited access to quality medical care. As prevalence is difficult of the West to trace Nile virus in humans, we suggest additional sampling of the virus in mosquitoes, and additional research may also help us to understand why patterns with higher mosquito infection rates occur in lower income areas and how these patterns are influenced by environmental factors such as climate change Weather.”
“It’s important, especially in populations from lower-income areas, as they are often immunocompromised by other infections, including HIV and likely COVID-19,” added Leisnham. “The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reported that the US is unprepared for mosquito and tick-borne risks based on surveys by local health authorities. ”
Rothman stresses the need for this work to improve environmental justice in low-income areas of cities like Baltimore. “Our research supports the belief that residents of these neighborhoods are at a disproportionate risk of mosquito-borne diseases,” said Rothman. “We need additional research to understand and address the underlying factors and ultimately to protect city dwellers.”
This paper, entitled “Higher West Nile Virus Infection in Aedes albopictus and Culex Mosquitoes from Low Income Areas in Urban Baltimore, Maryland,” was published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, DOI: 10.1093 / jme / tjaa262.
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