Researchers Are Using Mosquitoes to Monitor Viral Outbreaks

From malaria to the Zika virus, mosquitoes have a reputation for potentially transmitting dangerous diseases that could pose health risks to you and your family. But did you know that scientists are using technology and the tiny bloodsuckers for the greater good? It’s quite amazing!

Most people think that technology giant Microsoft® only has their hands in software and computers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. From augmented reality concepts to healthcare research, they have their hands in just about everything, including the study of viral outbreaks. Project Premonition, one of their research initiatives, has a singular focus on capturing data in the wild to study and better understand where viral outbreaks come from and how they spread.

To better understand viral outbreaks, and knowing that animals transmit many diseases, Project Premonition seeks to study them in the wild, which can prove difficult. Instead of going out and attempting to obtain blood samples from various animals, the researchers implemented the idea of using mosquitoes as field biologists. Mosquitoes already draw blood from animals that contain robust genetic information, so in a way, they act as tiny syringes to get the samples they need for study.

To retrieve the samples from their new researchers, the project designed smart traps that selectively capture select mosquito species based on their wing beat patterns. To find them, they also employed drone technology to pinpoint mosquito hotspots for ample test samples. They then use gene sequencing to extract the data necessary in a process that takes 12 hours—much quicker than the 30 days it used to take.

By detecting and monitoring infectious diseases present in animals before they spread, the project may one day help prevent viral outbreaks before they occur–and Microsoft isn’t the only organization working to better understand mosquitoes. The CDC, WHO and pest control companies around the world are making a difference in better understanding how diseases spread from these tiny pests.

“Technology turns mosquitoes into allies instead of enemies in the fight against deadly viruses” Microsoft

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