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Purdue researchers studying mosquitoes, hope to prevent spread of diseases

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Mosquito season may be over for this year but that has not stopped professors at Purdue and their research.

They hope to find a way to stop mosquito-borne diseases.

Catherine Hill is a medical entomologist in Purdue’s Department of Entomology. She is at work to develop new technology to fight the growing problem of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes like Dengue, Zika, and West Nile.

She said she spent 20 years of her career at work to try and figure out how to eradicate mosquitoes but now her research has shifted.

“We need to think very carefully about what their roles are and perhaps we might try an alternative approach which is to prevent the mosquito-transmitting diseases but not necessarily killing or eliminating it from the environment. It has been suggested that removing mosquitoes from certain environments could have catastrophic effects on the food chain,” Hill said.

Hill works inside the Environmental Growth Chamber at the university where thousands of diseased and non-diseased mosquitoes are kept within three different air-tight doors.

“We’re actually probably at a crisis point for mosquito control. We’re seeing an increase in mosquito-borne diseases globally, we’re seeing the reemergence in diseases we thought we had under control such as dengue and malaria and at the same time, we’re seeing the emergence of new diseases,” she added.

She wants to develop an insecticide that would stop the spread of diseases but also be safe for the environment.

“We are on a hunt for a new class of insecticides to control mosquitoes and this is work that is being done around the globe so I would say it’s a desperate need,” Hill added.

Hill said it is possible to be dependent on chemical insecticides for next 20-50 years. That is because they have been used for so long that mosquitoes have developed a tolerance to them.

To learn more about the current research, click here.