Toxic Traps Prey on Mosquito’s Motherly Instincts

Effort targets another disease spread by mosquito vectors

Dawn Wesson, , associate professor of tropical medicine in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Tulane University researchers are using mosquitoes’ motherly instincts against them to develop a novel trap to fight the spread of dengue fever. Researchers are deploying small devices with just the right mix of chemicals to convince the disease-carrying mosquitoes they’ve found the perfect place to lay their eggs.

But once they fly into this lethal “maternity ward,” there’s no getting out alive.


Dawn Wesson
, associate professor of tropical medicine in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, has begun a pilot study to see if the 12-inch-high traps are an effective, low-cost strategy to prevent transmission of dengue fever, one of the most widespread and deadly mosquito-borne viruses in the world. Wesson and her team plan to eventually deploy up to 10,000 traps in Iquitos, Peru, an area in the Amazon rainforest where dengue fever is a persistent problem.

“If this trap works, we think it can change a lot of people’s lives,” Wesson says.

There is no vaccine or cure for dengue fever. Mosquito control — the only effective way to stop transmission — is virtually nonexistent in most areas where the virus is common.

Most other traps target host-seeking mosquitoes looking for a blood meal. Tulane’s traps target those that have already tasted blood, making them the most dangerous because they may have bitten someone infected with the dengue virus. Female mosquitoes feed before they breed.

Wesson’s team will place two to three traps in homes and yards in an area of Iquitos for a year. Homeowners will maintain the traps, filling them up weekly and swapping out components every two months. Teams will compare mosquito sampling data and dengue fever cases between the area with traps and a control area where no traps are present. Tulane is leading the project in conjunction with researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of California–Davis, and officials from the U.S. Navy.

– Keith Brannon

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About Tulane University SPHTM

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the oldest school of public health in the country and the only American school of tropical medicine. Our mission is to advance public health knowledge, promote health and well-being, and prevent disease, disability, and premature mortality. This is accomplished through academic excellence in education of public health professionals, rigorous scientific research of public health problems, creative partnerships to advance the practice of public health, and innovative service to the local, national, and international public health community.
This entry was posted in Spring 2011 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Toxic Traps Prey on Mosquito’s Motherly Instincts

  1. John Kephart, MSPH says:

    How awesome is that! I’m just starting up a mosquito surveillance program to track WNV, SLE, EEE in Sedgwick County, Kansas, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect! As a SPH&TM alumnus, I continue to rave about what a great school Tulane is, what great professors there are and what great programs are available to students, and this just proves my point! Keep up the great work Dr. Wesson!

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