Next pandemic fears: New mosquito capable of spreading viruses to people ‘prime condition’

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Scientists at the University of Florida discovered the species called Aedes scapularis which feeds on both birds and people. In a study published in the Insect Journal by University of Florida entomologists Lindsay Campbell and Lawrence Reeves revealed the mosquitos are infected with a variety of diseases creating “the prime condition for a spillover event” with humans.

These include the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus as well as yellow fever which can infect humans.

In the Journal, the pair write that because the species feeds and humans and birds then there is a potential for the virus to be passed on.

Professor Reeves said: “If you end up with a species that’s capable of transmitting to [birds] and likes to also bite humans, that’s the prime condition for a spillover event.”

The study noted the species had adapted from its normal climate and had started to “readily enter buildings, and host-seeking and blood-feeding indoors.”

The study added: “The wide host breadth and frequent use of human hosts coupled with synanthropic adaptions suggests it may be well positioned, ecologically, to serve as a bridge vector for human and animal pathogens.”

Academics noted the mosquito is normally present in South America and the Caribbean but climate change, international travel and global trade helped to spread the mosquito further north to Florida.

In the study, Professor Reeves wrote: “Aedes scapularis is an important mosquito species capable of transmitting viruses and parasites to humans and animals.

“Aedes scapularis was previously known to occur throughout large portions of the Americas, from the lower Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas to Argentina and on several Caribbean Islands.

“Recently, this mosquito became established in southern Florida, it is expected to continue to expand its geographic distribution to fill contiguous areas with suitable environments.”

Scientists also claimed there was also a second species of mosquito which were of concern to scientists known as Aedes vittatus.

Professor Reeves said the species was originally from India and was a carrier of some “worrying diseases” including Dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

The species have now been found in Cuba just 90 miles from Florida.

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The academic stressed a link could be established after an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases have recently emerged in Florida.

Most recently was in July 2020 when several cases of dengue fever were reported in Key Largo.

They also noted eight other invasive mosquito species had been found in Florida since 2000.

It was also initially thought the COVID-19 virus, which was first discovered in China in December 2019, spread from bats to humans.

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