Australia Braces For Asian Tiger Mosquito Invasion

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By Athena Yenko | May 30, 2014 5:56 PM EST

Queensland scientist has commenced breeding the Asian tiger mosquito in preparation against possible invasion in the near future, AAP reported.

The breeding behind a series of locked doors in Brisbane's QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute aims to understand the mosquito's ability to inflect the dreaded chikungunya virus, dengue and Ross River virus, accompanied by joint pains that can last for months and other mosquito-related diseases.

"What we'd like to understand is the real risk of transmission in urban centers like Brisbane and Sydney. We are also looking at the way it would interact with native mosquitoes so we can determine how rapid its impact will be," Associate Prof. Greg Devine told AAP.

Asian tiger mosquito's invasion of Australia is only a matter of when.

"It's definitely only a matter of time. It arrived in the Torres Strait about 2005, but of course that's not the only route at which it can come in. There is no doubt it is coming eventually because it's been picked up so many times at Australia's borders," Devine added.

The mosquito is described as relentless bitter and people can experience 20 to 30 bites per minute. When the invasion comes, Australia's outdoor lifestyle will be much affected.

"When things get at that sort of level of annoyance, then clearly it really changes the way people use recreational spaces and the way that they enjoy themselves, and that's why it's called the 'barbecue stopper'," Devine told ABC.

There were already tens of thousands of people affected in Papua New Guinea, Immunovirologist Prof. Andreas Suhrbier said.

"This virus has the capacity to spread fairly quickly in new environments.  If that mosquito becomes established in Australia, that opens the door for a chikungunya epidemic. We're worried about chikungunya. We want to make sure we are at the forefront of working out what we should best do if this virus came here, and of course helping those countries where it's already occurred. The more that we can understand about this virus, how it's transmitted, how it manages to so quickly spread in a population, the better off we're going to be if it eventually does get here,"  Suhrbier added.

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