It can be taken for granted that if the tiger mosquito is present in your place of residence you will already know it from your own experience (its bites are noticeable), but if you want to know if this and other annoying biting insects are acting in the locality where you you are going to spend the next weekend or the summer holidays, the citizen science platform Mosquito Alert provides you with updated data on its new interactive map.
The new map is the only one in our country and in Europe that offers information in almost real time, allows consulting the presence and activity of the tiger mosquito and other mosquitoes of interest from the epidemiological point of view in the different autonomous communities, provinces and municipalities . It currently includes more than 69,500 mosquito reports and 30,000 bite reports, all of them provided by citizens through the Mosquito Alert app and validated by a national and international community of entomology experts.
The new map has been produced within the framework of the Big Mosquito Bytes project, which has the support of the ”la Caixa” Foundation, with the aim of investigating how to combine citizen science with other data sources to predict in real time our exposure to mosquitoes that, due to their ability to transmit infectious diseases, can become a public health problem, and thus anticipate in which places and times an epidemic outbreak of dengue or another of the diseases is most likely to occur What can the tiger mosquito transmit?
The incidence of dengue and chikungunya has increased dramatically in recent decades, with more than 4 million reported cases of dengue in the world in 2022. The current lack of effective vaccines against dengue and other diseases makes prevention and mosquito control the best tools to combat them.
"The photographs taken by citizens help to monitor the spread of the tiger mosquito, while at the same time making it possible to detect the possible introduction of new species, as happened with the Japanese mosquito in Asturias in 2018," explains Frederic Bartumeus, co-director of Mosquito Alert and researcher at the Blanes Center for Advanced Studies (CEAB-CSIC), the institution that leads the Big Mosquito Bytes project, in which researchers from UPF, the ISCIII National Center for Epidemiology, CREAF and the Max Planck Research Institute also participate Demographic, in Germany.
In addition to visualizing the presence of the different species of mosquitoes, you can also check where bites from these insects have been documented, information that experts would not be able to have without citizen participation. The map has a monthly estimate of activity patterns (bites) and the probability of finding each of the study species: the tiger mosquito, the yellow fever mosquito, the Japan mosquito, the Korean mosquito, and the common.
"This is an innovative system that collects and recalculates the data obtained by citizens in real time and combines it with climate and land use data, among other variables. The information obtained by these models makes it possible to better assess the risk of outbreaks of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, thus enabling better risk management", points out John Palmer, co-director of Mosquito Alert and professor at UPF.
Commitment to citizens in public health matters The new map aims to raise awareness, inform and empower people in the fight against mosquitoes that can transmit diseases. The data offered publicly can be used to facilitate decision-making and public policies: "We want to return to the public the information that they share with us individually; we want people and also management entities to be able to know what mosquitoes there are in their town or city and when they are active," explains Bartomeus.
"We also offer tools so that anyone can learn to identify the different species and take measures, whether it is protecting themselves to avoid their bites or eliminating those places where mosquitoes could breed from their patios and balconies. Citizens can play a key role in the prevention and control of mosquitoes that can transmit diseases", concludes this Mosquito Alert expert.
The new map, which is already available, will be presented to the public during the next CaixaResearch debate organized by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, which will take place on June 21 at 7:00 p.m. Two CSIC researchers will participate in the online event: Frederic Bartumeus, co-director of Mosquito Alert, and Jordi Figuerola Borrás, Research Professor at the Doñana Biological Station, Higher Council for Scientific Research (EBDCSIC).
On the one hand, Bartumeus will explain to the audience the main results of the project that are already available, as well as the results that will be made public between now and the end of the year, which is when the Big Mosquito Bytes project ends. For its part, Jordi Figuerola's team is focused on preventing possible outbreaks of the West Nile virus in Spain, a disease that in 2020 caused 77 serious cases and 8 deaths in Spain, most of them in Andalusia.
Figuerola and his team take mosquito samples every week to check if they have the virus. They determine to which species they belong and relate the circulation of the pathogen with meteorological parameters such as average temperature and rainfall, as well as with infectivity in humans. With this they hope to be able to forecast the risk of transmission based on environmental conditions and the abundance of mosquitoes.