Fighting mosquitoes: MosquitoAlert, the app that allows citizens to contribute with a click, arrives in Italy

A snapshot of the insect will allow citizens and experts to learn about the type of mosquito, its danger and the areas to be pest-controlled

An app to find out the types of mosquitoes arriving in large numbers with the warmer months will help combat infestations. All this can be done with a simple photograph of the insect to be sent via the MosquitoAlert application to the Task Force that has brought together experts from Sapienza University of Rome, the University of Bologna, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (The Italian National Institute of Health), the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie and the MUSE (Science museum) in Trento to collaborate on this project.

Already used in Spain, the app has made it possible to collect thousands of photographs validated in real time by expert entomologists, track the invasion by any new species, and identify the most infested regions and areas and direct control interventions. This year MosquitoAlert is also available in Italy and simultaneously in 20 other countries thanks to the European project AIM-COST coordinated by Alessandra della Torre of the Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases.

The MosquitoAlert Italia Task Force is promoting the project in Italy, undoubtedly one of the most infested countries in Europe, where mosquitoes are not only a source of annoyance (often high), but can also transmit viruses that can cause severe human pathologies such as the West Nile virus, or the tropical viruses Chikungunya or Dengue. "We are asking citizens to download the MosquitoAlert app onto their phones free of charge and to remember, whenever they spot or manage to catch a mosquito, even after striking it in self-defence, to send a photograph via the same app," says Beniamino Caputo, a researcher at Sapienza University and coordinator of MosquitoAlert Italy. "The app also allows you to send simple reports of bites or indicate the presence of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed, and also provides an address to which you can eventually send the whole specimen. In return, users will be able to find out which species is bothering them and learn about the associated health risks, as well as having access to a map of the different species present in their area".

Spring is the period of prevention when treatments must be carried out in public and private areas (gardens, vegetable plots, terraces) to remove, with suitable products, or make inaccessible to mosquitoes all those small or large bodies of water in which they could lay their eggs and in which larvae can develop. But how does one know where to target the most dangerous species?

This year, an additional tool requires the active collaboration of all citizens to collect data on different mosquito species, including invasive species such as the tiger mosquito and other species of Asian origin. MosquitoAlert is a citizen science project, as there are now several that, with the help of citizens, collect invaluable information on biodiversity, invasive species, plastic waste, air and water quality, noise and light pollution. Mosquitoes may attract less attention than a pretty flower or a butterfly, but they are not only a source of great annoyance to many but also a risk to public health because of the viruses they transmit through their bites. Now, researchers are asking citizens to help them get to know them and fight them better.

The Mosquito Alert Italia Task Force provides scientific and technical support in the management of this platform by contributing to the rapid validation of the material sent via MosquitoAlert and recognising the mosquito species represented in the images. "For this reason," says Francesco Severini, a researcher at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, who has always been involved in research and activities aimed at protecting citizens' health, "the quality of the photos sent is of fundamental importance for accurate and valid identification. In addition, the possibility of sending the photographed specimen to the reference laboratories will make it possible to identify even specimens that are difficult to recognise without a microscope or because they are partially damaged.

Sapienza is at the forefront of the Mosquito Alert ITALIA project, based on the vast experience of the Sanitary Entomology research group of the Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases and aims to involve all students and staff of the University in using the app. On May 11, the social campaign #SCATTALAZANZARA will be launched with the contribution of the students of the Master's degree course in Biomedical Scientific Communication, coordinated by Michaela Liuccio. "The aim is to sensitise Sapienza students and staff to contribute to research by providing photographs and reports to fellow entomologists and, at the same time, raise awareness of the risks associated with mosquitoes and individual and public prevention measures". The most willing are also asked to keep any mosquitoes in the freezer, using the code from the photo sent via MosquitoAlert, and hand them in at the collection point in the lobby of the Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases.


Further Information

Alessandra della Torre 
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases 

Beniamino Caputo 
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases 

Michaela Liuccio
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases

© Sapienza Università di Roma - Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma - (+39) 06 49911 - CF 80209930587 PI 02133771002