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16 April 2019

A mosquito’s buzz is music to the ears of AITHM researcher Kyran Staunton, who is fine tuning a sound trap designed to play a crucial role in efforts to control the spread of Aedes aegypti – the primary transmitter of dengue.

Recent initiatives to reduce Aedes aegypti mosquito populations in Far North Queensland have focused on the release of Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes, which do not allow females to reproduce. This has triggered a demand for economical surveillance methods to keep tabs on the whereabouts of the males.

“Previous work by the AITHM mosquito research team has identified that the male mosquitoes are attracted to female wingbeat frequencies,” said Dr Staunton, a post-doctoral research fellow, whose current work is funded by Verily (an Alphabet company and Google affiliate).

“The males can be captured in commonly used traps, through artificial playback of these sounds. But the traps were not yet ideal for wide-scale monitoring.”

Dr Staunton and his colleagues are developing a simple, low-cost sound trap powered by small batteries, as an additional tool to current models reliant on mains power or large 12-volt batteries.

“This trap would be particularly useful in developing countries or during large-scale rear and release programs, where funding for surveillance is limited,” he said.

The team is also developing additional ‘smart’ features to enable the remote detection and transmission of trap data.

 “Checking sound traps on a weekly basis requires a lot of field work, which is expensive,” Dr Staunton observed. “We want to create a sentinel trap which could be left in the field for up to a month to automatically send trap results to us in the office.”

Sound traps are also being trialled on another dengue-carrying mosquito species, Aedes albopictus, which has yet to reach mainland Australia, but is hovering in the Torres Strait.

Dr Staunton has conducted research on live specimens held by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, and one of the mosquito research team’s PhD candidates, Tom Swan, plans to travel to the Torres Strait in March to pit the trap against Aedes albopictus in the wild.

This year, Dr Staunton also hopes to test his trap in a range of conditions overseas.

“I plan to test them in countries that have much higher numbers of either mosquito species, perhaps PNG, Mexico and the southern US,” he said. 

Dr Kyran Staunton 

Research Fellow

College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences


Location: Cairns

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