12th September, 2017
A group of community leaders met recently for the first time to discuss the next phase of a research project which aims to understand whether we can reduce and hopefully remove the invasive and dengue transmitting Aedes aegypti mosquito from targeted areas in the local environment.
CSIRO’s Mosquito Research Project Lead Scientist, Dr Nigel Beebe, presented to the group of local residents, business owners and civic leaders. He outlined the findings of the research on the Cassowary Coast so far in relation to the mosquitoes’ behaviour, and how this is informing the proposed release of sterile male mosquitoes later this year.
The Innisfail Chamber of Commerce’s president Ron Donges attended. “This is an exciting project for the region and I think it’s important to be involved,” he said.
CSIRO is partnering with James Cook University (JCU) and Verily (an Alphabet company) who is working globally to explore methods for suppressing the spread of mosquitoes responsible for transmitting diseases, such as dengue or chikungunya.
“The northern Cassowary Coast region was selected for field testing of the research method on the basis that it contains ideal isolated landscapes suitable for field trials and a year-round healthy population of Aedes aegypti,” Dr Beebe said.
The local project team is currently establishing a new network of mosquito monitoring traps to support the study scheduled to begin before the wet season. It will involve the release of sterile male mosquitoes (male mosquitoes don’t bite) to mate with the wild females.
“If the sterile males successfully mate with a wild female, her eggs won’t hatch, which over time could result in the reduction and eventual removal of the Aedes aegypti from the local landscape,” Dr Beebe said.
The Project Advisory Group (PAG) has been established to encourage regular communications between the community and project team, and monitor community support for the planned study, which would only proceed with the support of residents and approval from the Australian Government.
CSIRO’s local Community Engagement Officer for the project, Kathryn Dryden, is currently arranging informative presentations to the Chamber of Commerce and various schools.
“Community groups, schools, businesses, organisations and clubs are welcome to be in touch to arrange a presentation to their group,” Kathryn said.
All residents of the Cassowary Coast are encouraged to find out more about the research project by talking with a PAG member, calling 1800 403 083 or visiting the project website at www.csiro.au/Innisfail_project. Local area engagement efforts will soon be underway and residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for details in the coming months.