Mosquito Alert

NRRP funds for mosquito research promote participatory science through the Mosquito Alert app

Mosquito Alert is a free app for tracking invasive mosquitoes through citizens' photo reports. After excellent results in 2022, the project grows thanks to Next Generation EU funds

Spring is coming, and with it, mosquitoes are returning. After such a mild winter and the rains of recent days, it is feared that their presence may be greater in the coming months than in previous years. However, it is not just a nuisance: mosquitoes can transmit viruses - such as West Nile, Chikungunya and Dengue viruses - capable of causing serious diseases in humans. That is why it is important to know where, when and how many species there are on our territory, where the highest densities and risks are reached and where it is most appropriate to concentrate pest control interventions. To this end, as early as 2021, the Mosquito Alert Italia task force - headed by the Sapienza Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases with the contribution of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, the Muse - Museo delle Scienze di Trento and the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna - has focused on citizens' photographic reports to obtain nationwide data.

In two years, the Mosquito Alert app has been downloaded by over 18,000 users, who have sent in over 8,000 photos from 103 out of 107 Italian provinces. Most of these belonged to the most widespread species in Italy - the common mosquito Culex pipiens - and to the invasive species Aedes albopictus, the famous tiger mosquito that arrived in Italy more than 30 years ago, spreading throughout the territory and affecting the possibility of fully enjoying outdoor activities from May to October. But citizens have also sent in photographs of rarer species, such as the Korean mosquito (Aedes koreicus) and the Japanese mosquito (Aedes japonicus) - invasive species that have arrived in our country more recently and are expanding especially in northern Italy.

Thanks to reports from citizens inside their homes, researchers have begun to understand which species sting the most outdoors and which indoors, a fact that may seem trivial to those of us who are frequent victims of stings but which until now could not be scientifically assessed due to the difficulty of sampling and setting traps in domestic environments.

The success of the initiative led researchers to a quantum leap in 2023, also thanks to the funding received by research groups from 10 universities, the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, the Association of Experimental Zooprophylactic Institutes and the Bruno Kessler Foundation thanks to the project 'INF-ACT - One Health Basic and Translational Research Actions addressing Unmet Needs on Emerging Infectious Diseases' financed by the Ministry of University and Research on NRRP Next Generation EU funds.

Activities will be undertaken starting today and throughout the coming months of the year to promote the Mosquito Alert app in universities, museums, schools and towns; with some of them, a productive collaboration has already begun. The aim is to obtain a greater number of reports through further public awareness of the project but also to use this opportunity to create greater awareness of the health risks associated with mosquito bites, of the need to monitor the possible introduction of the most dangerous species - Aedes aegypti, not present in Italy but reported last year for the first time in a long time in the Mediterranean, on the island of Cyprus - and, finally, of the essential role of each of us in avoiding providing mosquitoes with breeding grounds. It is important to highlight that mosquito larvae live and develop in water and that many times, especially in poor rainy seasons, it is the people themselves who provide suitable sites for their breeding, from tanks to bins to plant saucers and a myriad of other small containers often filled with water, not of rainwater origin, used for watering and irrigation.



Further Information

Alessandra della Torre, Research Node 2 coordinator, INF-ACT project
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza Universiy of Rome

Beniamino Caputo, Mosquito Alert ITALIA coordinator
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza Universiy of Rome

Thursday, 11 May 2023

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