Asian tiger mosquito on its way to Sweden
A mosquito bite in Sweden often causes no more trouble than an itch, but researchers are now warning that the Asian tiger mosquito, which can spread the Zika virus, may be making its way to Sweden. Researchers have turned to an app over the summer to help them keep track of its spread.
As the name indicates, the Asian tiger mosquito originated in Southeast Asia. In recent years, it has been spreading further and further north within Europe and it now appears to be making its way to Sweden too. Swedish researchers are coordinating the Swedish version of the ‘Mosqutio Alert’ app, which allows the public to participate in the hunt for the invasive mosquito species.
Jenny Hesson is a researcher at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology and one of those working on the app.
Tell us about the Swedish version of the ‘Mosquito Alert’ app, how does it work?
“You can take pictures of mosquitoes with your phone and upload them to the app. They are then sent to our experts who decide whether the mosquito is one of the five species that can spread viruses, known as vectors, or are newcomers to Europe. You can also report mosquito bites. Ultimately, we hope to develop the app to cover more species and use it to provide an estimate of potential problems involving floodwater mosquitoes that are becoming unbearably numerous, for example.”
How has it gone, have you received any reports?
“We received several reports over the summer, and with the extended mosquito season that we are experiencing this year, they have continued to flow in even now during the autumn.”
Has the tiger mosquito arrived in Sweden yet?
“A few isolated observations of the tiger mosquito were made this summer, but it is not established or common. It is probably only a matter of time before it appears more frequently, especially in southern Sweden, where it also has a chance to establish itself.”
Why is there a risk now that it is on its way to Sweden?
“The tiger mosquito travels on everything from imported plants to trucks, so it is mainly a consequence of the increase in global transport and travel. This then combines with the fact that the tiger mosquito is highly adaptable and has been able to develop populations that can better tolerate colder temperatures, for example.”
What measures can be taken when it is present in the country?
“Let’s see if the government takes any action, as has been the case in many other European countries where the tiger mosquito is now spreading. Several countries actively monitor and control the larval habitat of the tiger mosquito. In Sweden, there are only a few individual researchers who are interested in this area and have the right experience and expertise through international collaborations, but measures are ultimately about how authorities and research councils prioritise.”
The world's most invasive mosquito species
- The Asian mosquito is a mosquito native to tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia. It is characterised by black-and-white-striped legs and a white band on its back.
- It is one of the world’s most invasive mosquito species, preferring to live near humans rather than in wetlands, and flying and sucking blood during the day. It can also spread several viruses such as Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya.
- The best way to protect yourself is to avoid mosquito bites by wearing light-coloured clothing and using mosquito repellent.