Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Mosquitoes islandwide being tested for resistance

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2019 | 12:16 AM
A representative from the Portland Health Department carrying out fogging operations at the Port Antonio Police Station in 2016.

Researchers from the Zika AIRS Project (ZAP) say that the Government will know by the end of March if mosquitoes on the eastern side of the island have also become resistant to insecticides.

The United States Agency for International Development-funded programme was tasked with conducting tests on mosquitoes islandwide after it was discovered that mosquitoes in St Andrew had become resistant to common insecticides.

ZAP Entomology Manager Dr Sheena Francis says that insecticide resistance is a global problem and other Caribbean countries have also reported resistance in mosquitoes. She noted that the resistance in St Andrew mosquitoes does not necessarily indicate an islandwide problem.

“Mosquitoes become resistant by population and not by species. For example, if we’re fogging a lot in Kingston, you’re exposing them to the chemicals more often,” explained research assistant Chelsea Frank. The continuous use of chemicals has increased the ability of mosquitoes to combat its effect.

Dengue outbreak

Fogging activities have been stepped up in recent months after an outbreak of the deadly dengue virus. As at February 8, the health ministry had classified 1,166 suspected, presumed, or confirmed cases with dates of onset in 2019. In 2018, there were 1,023 suspected or confirmed cases.

Pointing to Jamaica’s tropical climate and the lack of approved vaccines for mosquito-borne diseases, Francis said that it was necessary that the best practices be found to suppress the mosquito population.

Chief of Party for the ZAP Jean Margaritis said that from a policy perspective, the Ministry of Health would be able to use their report to inform the procurement of chemicals for vector control.

“If you know something isn’t working, then you will be able to make changes and find something that works effectively,” explained Margaritis.