Scientists use machine learning approaches to track mosquitoes that carry the disease

Female Aedes aegypti receives a blood diet from a human host. Utah State University biologist Noraserman, along with colleagues at the University of California, Davis and Yale University, is studying the connectivity of this type of landscape, where dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses are the major carriers of human spread. .. Credits: James Gathany, CDC

You may not like mosquitoes, but they do like you, says Utah State University biologist Nora Thurman. And where you guide, they will continue.

In addition to unpleasant bites and buzz, some mosquitoes carry harmful illnesses. Aedes aegypti, a so-called yellow fever mosquito, has been the subject of recent research by Saarman et al. And is a major carrier of the virus that causes dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever in humans.

“Nettai Shimaka is an invading species in North America and is widespread in the eastern United States,” said an assistant professor at the USU School of Biological Sciences and the USU Ecological Center, which conducts research focused on evolutionary ecology and population genomics. Saarman says. “We are investigating the genetic connectivity of this species as it adapts to new landscapes and expands its reach.”

Together with Evlyn Pless, Davis and Jeffrey Powell of the University of California, Davis, Andalgisa Caccone and Giuseppe Amatulli of Yale University, Saarman presented the results of a machine learning approach for mapping landscape connectivity in the February 22, 2021 issue. Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)..

The team’s research was supported by the National Institute of Health.

“I’m excited about this approach, which uses a random forest algorithm that can overcome some of the constraints of the classical spatial model,” says Saarman. “Our approach combines the benefits of a machine learning framework with an iterative optimization process that integrates genetic and environmental data.”

In their native Africa, Aedes aegypti lived in forests, nourishing uninhabited or few-inhabited landscapes. Since then, mosquitoes have specialized in feeding humans, breeding in human-affected areas, preferring trash mountains, cluttered highways, and well-irrigated gardens.

“Machine learning models and satellite imagery from NASA can be used to combine this spatial data with the genetic data we’ve already collected to delve into the very specific movements of these mosquitoes,” Saarman said. I will. “For example, our data reveal attractiveness to human transport networks, showing that activities such as plant nurseries inadvertently transport these insects to new areas.”

Civil servants and land managers once relied on pesticides, including DDT, to keep nasty mosquitoes away.

“As we now know, those pesticides have caused harm to the environment, including harm to humans,” she says. “At the same time, mosquitoes are evolving their resistance to pesticides that have proven to be environmentally safe. This is a challenge that can only be solved with more information about where mosquitoes live and how they move. Produces. “

Saarman can be expanded to colder areas because rugged survivors adapt to different food sources, resist pesticides, and adapt to different temperatures.

Current methods for controlling disease-carrying mosquitoes focus on bioengineering solutions, including state-of-the-art genetic modification.

“We hope that the tools we are developing will help managers identify effective ways to keep mosquito populations small enough to avoid disease transmission,” Thurman said. say. “Indigenous species play an important role in the food chain, but invading species such as Aedes aegypti pose a significant public health risk that requires our attention.”

Researchers discover low-molecular-weight viral RNA in mosquito cells

For more information:
Evlyn Pless et al. , “Machine Learning Approach for Mapping Aedes aegypti Landscape Connectivity with Genetic and Environmental Data” PNAS (2021).

Courtesy of Utah State University

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Scientists use machine learning approaches to track mosquitoes that carry the disease

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