Monitoring Windborne Activities of Disease Vectors, Pathogens, and Pests
Tovi Lehmann of the National Institute of Health in the U.S. will establish cross-country networks of aerial sampling stations in Africa to monitor windborne movement of insects and pests, and evaluate risks to public health, food safety, and ecosystem stability. Vector-borne disease is among Africa's top health priorities, and control of the insect vectors is the primary target for prevention. They will use a unique aerial sampling program to collect airborne insects across Mali and Ghana, and identify insects and pathogens within them by molecular analysis. Sticky nets mounted on helium balloons have shown, in a pilot project, to collect diverse samples, more representative of area fauna than ground sampling protocols. The same project showed that mosquitoes frequently travel (and may spread disease) over hundreds of kilometers. Overnight aerial sampling will be conducted ten nights per month for six months, followed by insect taxonomic identification and RNA/DNA sequencing to identify insects and pathogens. Weather data will be collected from the sampling stations at both ground level and sampling altitude and combined with population data for statistical analysis and simulation of flight patterns. They will produce dynamic, species-specific maps of select insects and pathogens with putative sites of origin, routes and destinations, which will be used to evaluate risks to public health and food security.