Researchers find way to stop spread of Mosquito-Borne Disease

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It could end a potentially deadly problem, right here in New Mexico. University of New Mexico researchers have discovered an environmentally-friendly way to kill mosquitoes that carry diseases.

“This particular project actually got started because of the whole Zika epidemic. The CDC had a call out for novel methods to control mosquitoes,” said Dr. Ivy Hurwitz, a research professor at UNM.

Over the past five years, Hurwitz and her team developed a way to kill large amounts of mosquitoes while they are still larvae, essentially eliminating the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika or the West Nile Virus.

“We have a pre-measured amount of water, oil, and yeast. We basically just combine them all together in this flask,” said Alexandra Yingling, a research scientist at UNM.

Essential oils, like orange oil, are toxic to mosquitoes. Researchers combined the oil with something they love to eat, yeast, to make a deadly meal for mosquitoes.

“We give it 24-hours and then we count them to see how many died,” said Yingling.

The research has proved to be effective on the kinds of mosquitoes that carry both Zika and West Nile Virus.

“We actually do have those mosquitoes in New Mexico especially in the more southern part of the state,” said Hurwitz.

While mosquitoes that carry Zika have been found in New Mexico, a human has never been infected with the disease.

In 2019, there were 40 human cases of West Nile Virus in New Mexico, including four deaths.

The mixture is currently being tested in stagnant water in South America, and Hurwitz hopes it will eventually be used here too.

“That’s the goal, the long term goal,” said Hurwitz.

Hurwitz says on top of being environmentally friendly, their mixture will be much less expensive than the insecticides commonly used now.

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