Mosquitoes highly resistant to insecticides identified in Asia

Mosquitoes highly resistant to insecticides identified in Asia

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Mosquitoes transmitting dengue fever and other sometimes severe viral diseases have developed high resistance to insecticides in parts of Asia, and new methods to stem their spread are urgently needed, according to a recently published Japanese study.

The spraying of insecticides in mosquito-infested areas is a common practice in tropical and subtropical regions. Resistance was already a concern, but the extent of the problem was not precisely known until now.

Japanese scientist Shinji Kasai and his team have studied mosquitoes from several Asian countries and Ghana, and found genetic mutations that make some of them immune to widely used insecticides like permethrin.

“In Cambodia, more than 90% of mosquitoes Aedes aegypti – the main vector of dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses – have a combination of mutations resulting in an extremely high level of resistance”, according to Shinji Kasai.

This director of the department of medical entomology at the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases discovered that certain types of mosquitoes that were supposed to be 100% eliminated by insecticides were now only 7%. And even a toxic dose ten times higher only killed 30%.

An Aedes albopictus mosquito, native to Asia, photographed in June 2020 in the South of France. [Sébastien Lapeyrere – Hans Lucas via AFP]Resistance levels vary by region. They “totally differ” between Cambodia and Vietnam for example according to Shinji Kasai.

His work also revealed that in Ghana, parts of Indonesia and Taiwan, existing insecticides were still working for the time being.

Resistance to insecticides has also been observed in the “tiger mosquito”. Aedes albopictusbut to lower degrees.

New chemicals and vaccines

This study published in late December by the journal Science Advances shows that “commonly employed strategies may no longer be effective” in controlling populations of harmful mosquitoes”, according to Professor Cameron Webb, an expert from the University of Sydney.

New chemicals are needed, but authorities and scientists must also consider new methods of protection, such as vaccines, according to Cameron Webb.

Only a few dengue vaccines are currently available – that of the Japanese pharmaceutical group Takeda was approved last year by Indonesia and then the European Union, while the use of that of the French Sanofi is very limited because it can aggravate the disease in people who have never had this virus before (read box).

Vary insecticides and sterilize mosquitoes

Shinji Kasai, who fears that the super-resistant mosquitoes he has identified will spread elsewhere in the world “in the near future”, also recommends varying the insecticides more, but the problem is that their modes of action are often similar.

Alternatives are to step up efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds or to sterilize male mosquitoes using Wolbachia bacteria, an innovative method that has already yielded encouraging results locally.

>> Read also: Ticino tests sterilization to fight the tiger mosquito

Exactly where and when insecticide resistance mutations in mosquitoes arose remains a mystery.

Shinji Kasai is now expanding his research to other parts of Asia and also looking at more recent samples from Cambodia and Vietnam to see if anything has changed from his previous study which looked at the period 2016-2019.


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