The First European AIM – COST Project Addressing the Invasive Mosquito Emergency
The first European Project addressing the Invasive Mosquito Emergency has kicked off. Invasive mosquitos are those species – also referred to as allochthone – that come to inhabit new areas due to human activities and alter the ecosystem creating issues to the wellbeing and health of individuals.
AIM-COST Action (Aedes Invasive Mosquito - Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a project coordinated by Alessandra della Torre from the Sapienza Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases that won the 2018 Selections, placing amongst the 7% of COST projects funded by the European Union.
Every year, COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) supports projects that aim to develop transnational and inter-sectorial synergies to address technological, social and health issues through a joint and coordinated approach by funding networking and international mobility activities. The main mission of COST Projects is to overcome technological and cultural inequalities amongst EU countries and neighbouring regions through the creation of a network of European researchers to optimise efforts and jointly challenge issues through synergies with public institutions and private companies.
Over the course of the last thirty years, Italy and many other Mediterranean countries have witnessed the appearance of invasive mosquito species whose eggs are imported, mainly through water in used tires, from their original habitat in southeast Asia. These allochthone species – and mainlyAedes albopictus (commonly referred to as the Tiger Mosquito) have found optimal conditions for survival and reproduction in the Mediterranean Area. Unlike autochthonous mosquitoes, they also bite during day-time and have reduced the pleasure of enjoying the outdoors during the warm season.
“Tiger Mosquitoes,” explains Alessandra della Torre, “are not only fastidious, but also a true public health emergency as, like other invasive species, if they come into contact with a person infected by a tropical virus, they become infected and spread the virus to other healthy individuals.”
Viruses such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, which cause massively debilitating illnesses, were already widespread in tropical regions, but now, with the extension of the Aedes albopictus mosquito habitat to temperate regions, these viruses can also be transmitted in Europe. This is evident in the Chikungunya epidemic in Lazio and Calabria, which in 2017 infected 500 individuals, some of who suffered pathologies lasting up to various months.
AIM-COST currently works with research and public health institutions and companies from 29 European countries and 4 non-EU states, and is open to new scientists, public administrators and sector specialists from these and other countries who wish to contribute to this challenge and develop cheaper and more efficient approaches, both from an economic and environmental perspective, to block the diffusion of invasive mosquito species and their associated health risks.
“Our objective,” concludes Alessandra della Torre, “is to create a virtuous process that will provide, after four years of funding, all countries with guidelines and recommendations for ecological, sanitary and economic situations, in synergy with the main international agencies, such as the European Centre for Disease Control, the European Section of the World Health Organisation and the European Mosquito Control Association.”
For further information
Alessandra della Torre
Chair of AIM-COST ACTION CA17108
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University