Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance. They are the number one public health menace, spreading disease to an estimated 300-500 million people a year, resulting in over 3 million deaths. Mosquitoes transmit the parasites and viruses that are responsible for Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and many more infectious diseases including the West Nile Virus, a serious, life-altering, and even fatal illness of particular concern in the United States. To combat this problem, methodologies have been developed that attempt to regulate or eradicate mosquitoes before they become adults. However, these solutions contain either chemicals or bacteria that may be harmful to the ecosystem and to humans.
The UNF Solution
University of North Florida researchers have created a unique, all natural solution to control mosquitoes that does not threaten the environment or humans. The UNF invention halts mosquitoes in the larval stages before they become disease transmitting pests. Unlike other larvicides, the UNF technology prolongs the larval life cycle, increasing the availability of the mosquito as a viable source of nutrition for the insect’s natural predators.
UNF researchers have harnessed the power of nature to create a safe alternative to mosquito control. The UNF solution consists of a special combination of sugars that when consumed by mosquito larvae, inhibit growth past the larval stage. These larvae never “pupate" therefore they never emerge as adults.
Unlike many of the current larvicides on the market, the UNF solution is completely safe and environmentally friendly. Small bodies of water, such as overturned garbage lids, pails, pots, and birdbaths are all possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These problem areas can be eradicated by UNF technology without the use of potentially dangerous chemicals. Other potential applications include stagnant drinking water sources in areas such as Africa. The UNF invention could decrease mosquito borne illness while not compromising the safety of the water source.
In addition, ongoing research into the triggering mechanism of the sugar and larvae interaction may ultimately yield a product that is applicable to large bodies of water as well.
There are several current methods for larvicide control:
- Microbial larvicides bind and paralyze the inside of the mosquito larvae gut. The nutrients mosquito larvae take in are unable to be processed and they starve. Microbial larvicides are non-toxic to humans, however, as it is a bacteria there is a possible danger of bacterial mutations that may be dangerous to the environment.
- Methoprene is an insect hormone that halts the growth of mosquito larvae. The mosquito larvae do not mature and subsequently die. Methoprene has a low toxicity level to humans since there is little chance of human interaction. Methoprene is not to be used in drinking water sources. Methoprene poses risks to fresh water fish and invertebrates.
- Temephos is an organophosphate that paralyzes the larvae’s central nervous system. Temephos inhibits the natural cholinesterase in the central nervous system and kills the larvae. Temephos in high concentrations can cause dizziness, nausea, and confusion in humans. Temephos is not to be used in drinking water sources. Temephos poses risks to non-target beneficial species such as bees and is toxic to some aquatic species.
- Mononuclear films cover a body of water and make it difficult for mosquito larvae to breath, which causes them to drown. Mononuclear films pose low toxicity to humans and are not to be used in drinking water sources. They pose possible risks to non target species if applied incorrectly.
- Oils cover a body of water and cause mosquito larvae to drown. This solution is similar to mononuclear films. These films are made from petroleum and have been used in various applications. Oils have a low toxicity and should not be used in drinking water sources. Oils can be toxic to aquatic species if misapplied.
Like the above larvicides, UNF's invention halts the development of larvae. However, this solution is made from environmentally safe and natural sugars. UNF's technology poses no threat to humans or the environment. The UNF solution will not pollute drinking water sources and is safe for human consumption.
Interested? Find out more by contacting Rosalyn Gilbert at the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, firstname.lastname@example.org or (904) 620-2352.