Mosquito Alert Italia

Summertime, mosquitoes are back: citizens join researchers in tracking them with the Mosquito Alert app

Mosquito Alert is a free app for citizens who want to collaborate in the national mosquito-tracking plan Mosquito Alert Italia, in a citizen science approach that brings citizens and researchers together. Sapienza University of Rome is coordinating the project in which other national research bodies are participating

Sapienza University of Rome is at the forefront of scientific research on mosquitoes, coordinated by the Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases of both the Mosquito Alert Italia project and the broader European Aedes Invasive Mosquito project AIM-COST Action. Mosquito Alert Italia has several partners, such as the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, MUSE - Museo delle Scienze di Trento and the Department of Physics and Astronomy 'Augusto Righi' of the University of Bologna.

Other partners are citizens, who will send the entomologists their voluntary reports via the Mosquito Alert app: by downloading it free of charge, citizens can send non-photographic reports of bites, as well as photos of mosquitoes or stagnant water collections, which may represent potential breeding sites for the insect such as manhole covers. Passionate citizens can also send the experts any mosquito specimens they manage to collect.

Launched in Spain, the Mosquito Alert app came to Italy in 2020. Interesting international results have been achieved to date, with over 200,000 downloads, but more can be achieved. The aim is to collect and validate as many photographs of mosquitoes as possible in order to map the species, with particular attention to the 'tiger' (Aedes albopictus) and other invasive species such as the Korean mosquito (Aedes koreicus) and the Japanese mosquito (Aedes japonicus), which have recently arrived in our country. Citizens work alongside researchers in mosquito control under the banner of citizen science, participatory science that actively involves citizens in scientific research.

Our country is indeed one of the most affected by mosquitoes in Europe, both in terms of the number of species (65 currently known) and their wide distribution and density over the territory, especially considering the invasive species: controlling them is important not only because of their annoying bites, but also because mosquitoes are potential vectors of human pathogens (e.g., Dengue and Chikungunya viruses), which can pose a threat to public health. Among the most dangerous mosquito species as vectors are Aedes aegypti which, currently not present in Italy, requires specific surveillance. It should also be remembered that a massive presence of mosquitoes can damage important sectors of the national economy, such as tourism.

Using the Mosquito Alert app is very easy: to find out about the species in real time, just take a photo of a mosquito and send the shot to the task force of experts. Citizens' reports, once validated, will be included in the interactive map on the Mosquito Alert Italia website and can help effectively target control interventions. In order not to nullify the results of disinfestations in public areas conducted by local authorities, it will also be important to make citizens aware of the management of private areas where mosquitoes could develop, such as domestic stagnant water collections.

"To contribute to the project, we ask citizens to download the app now and use it when they are stung or manage to photograph a mosquito," says Beniamino Caputo, a researcher at Sapienza University of Rome and coordinator of Mosquito Alert Italia. "The quality of the photos sent is fundamental for a valid identification of the species," adds Caputo. "Experts, again via smartphone, will inform the user about the mosquito photographed and draw up maps of the species present on the territory, useful for managing and directing disinfestations.

"Mosquito Alert allows citizens to join the project with three different levels of participation," explains Alessandra della Torre, coordinator of the Medical Entomology group at Sapienza University and chair of the AIM-COST project, "from the most straightforward and most immediate alert through the app, that of bites, to the next step of sending photos of mosquitoes or breeding sites, up to the actual sending of entire mosquito specimens, for the most enthusiastic.

Downloading the Mosquito Alert app, is the final plea, for a circular collaboration involving citizens, schools, public authorities and specialised companies: all alongside the researchers for effective mosquito control in the common interest and public health.

 

 

Further Information:

Alessandra della Torre
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases
alessandra.dellatorre@uniroma1.it

Beniamino Caputo
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases
beniamino.caputo@uniroma1.it

Friday, 17 June 2022

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