Simple trap could combat dengue fever

Dec. 30, 2010 at 6:19 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- A simple trap resembling a trash can that lures pregnant mosquitoes could help stop the spread of dengue fever, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at Tulane University say the trap, a gallon-size bucket, is baited with a mixture of chemicals that convince female mosquitoes it is a perfect spot to lay eggs. Once they fly in, they find not a stagnant puddle, but insecticide, reported Thursday.

"Right now there has really been nothing that can be safely used on a wide, multinational scale to reduce dengue transmission," Dawn Wesson, a Tulane professor of tropical medicine, said. "If this trap works, we think it can change a lot of people's lives."

Wesson and colleagues have started a pilot study in Peru to find out if the traps are effective.

Dengue fever, with symptoms including aches, pain, nausea and vomiting, is a major cause of disease and death in tropical areas.

The mosquito-borne disease starts with a high fever and red rash. Most cases of dengue fever are not usually deadly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a more severe version of the virus, dengue hemorrhagic fever, can be.

The only way to stop transmission of dengue fever is to stop the mosquitoes that carry it, Wesson said. If the new traps, funded by a $4.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, work out in the Peru pilot study, the researchers plan to test them in the Caribbean and Thailand.

The traps could keep people from having to spray insecticides into the environment, Wesson said.

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