Invasive mosquitoes carrying exotic diseases have made their entry into Europe. Diseases generally absent from Europe, like chikungunya and dengue fever have appeared around the continent. Europe’s entomologists and public-health experts have joined forces to try and defend the region.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm has released new guidelines that should help most European countries develop some kind of mosquito surveillance, which had become unnecessary after malaria was eradicated. However better vigilance has been needed since the late 1990s, as species like the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) have started to penetrate into Europe.
This new data will be fed into the VBORNET consortium, which has a network of Europe-wide experts, funded by the ECDC. This data should help researchers understand how invasive mosquitoes are spreading and the risks that they can pose.
A. albopictus can transmit at least 22 different viruses, including dengue fever and chikungunya. It was reported in Albania in 1979 and since then, it has spread to Italy, the Mediterranean coast, as well as France and Spain. The mosquito is native to southeast Asia, and there are at least five other invasive species of mosquitoes capable of spreading diseases, including Aedes aegypti.
Most of these mosquitoes are imported via the international tire business. Mosquitoes can breed in small volumes of water, such as rainwater that accumulates in tires. Invasive forms have drought-resistant eggs that allow stowaways to survive for long distances during transport before being revived once they arrive. Imported plants, like the lucky bamboo (Dracaena species), are also used to get into Europe. Predictive modeling suggests that more invasive mosquitoes could find suitable habitats in Europe by 2030.
Surveillance is patchy or non-existent in many of the affected countries since the process is time-consuming and expensive. Control measures that have been implemented in the Netherlands have stopped the Asian tiger mosquitoes from becoming established.