Although we are still in the middle of the corona pandemic, dozens of scientists are already working on the next threat: how should we deal with mosquitoes? In the future, they could just transmit deadly viruses.
Not only bats, but also mosquitoes can infect people with a virus, also in the Netherlands. Because mosquitoes come into contact with animals or people that carry a disease, they can spread it further.
‘Deadliest animal on Earth’
The One Health PACT, led by virologist Marion Koopmans, conducts research into so-called arboviruses. These can be transmitted through mosquitoes. “The mosquito is the deadliest animal on earth,” says entomologist at Wageningen University, Sander Koenraadt. “The insect transmits diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and the Zika virus.”
Tropical diseases sound far away, but nothing could be further from the truth. For example, the West Nile virus showed up in the vicinity of Utrecht 1.5 years ago. Eight people became infected. The virus was then not found in an exotic insect, but in an ordinary house mosquito.
‘Sea of Blood’
The Netherlands is slowly turning into a ‘walhalla’ for mosquitoes, according to Koenraadt. “Climate change is causing higher temperatures, more drought and more rainfall. We also keep a lot of animals and the country is densely populated.”
“That is a mosquito’s food supply. To them, we are just a sea of blood,” adds medical entomologist and vector biologist Bart Knols. He is not participating in the project, but is also specialized in research into mosquitoes.
“Things are going completely wrong in the Netherlands. We have to do something now, especially at the level of the European Union,” says Knols. But as a ‘frog country’, he believes that the Netherlands cannot do it alone.
Mosquitoes are now spreading diseases in southern Europe, but that could soon come our way, he says. “Tiger mosquitoes are now on the border of Belgium and France. It is only a matter of time before they get hold of the Vrijthof in Maastricht. That will just happen.”
Deploy the military
“Malaria also existed in the Netherlands in the past,” says Knols. “Now we don’t know the problem anymore and we don’t worry about it.” That is unfair according to him. “It could all just come back.”
Knols is happy with the research project, but is concerned about the next steps. He is afraid that political action will not be taken quickly enough. “You have to use the army to fight mosquitoes. People may think it’s ridiculous, but that’s very normal in Central and South America.”
Although we are still in the middle of the corona pandemic, dozens of scientists are already working on the next threat. How should we deal with mosquitoes? In the future, they could just transmit deadly viruses.