BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new mosquito trap surprises everyone with its wit. It can catch only the harmful biters that spread diseases, let the friendly insects fly away, and it can even record the weather conditions during which they emerge to bite.
This smart mosquito trap sounds like quite a revolutionary idea, but it is still unclear if it can actually improve public health. However, when they were tested last summer around Houston, they successfully captured the mosquito species responsible with spreading the Zika virus or other diseases.
The trap is part of Project Premonition, developed by Microsoft. The aim of the project is to learn how to spot early signs of outbreaks. Ethan Jackson, the lead researcher, made a few statements regarding the trap when they displayed it for the first time at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that took place in Boston.
He said that the trap was meant to play the role of a real biologist that could identify the dangerous and harmless species and decide which he wanted to catch.
Other health officials are keen on the idea, but are still a bit skeptical regarding its accurate functionality. Jonathan Day, a medical entomology professor at the University of Florida, although impressed, said that he would need solid proof that the trap was so good at keeping the harmful insects away.
Trapping is probably the most important part in mosquito control, since this is how the health officials know how to intervene against diseases. The typical trap contains a bait for mosquitoes and a fan, but it sucks inside any insect that gets close to the trap. Afterwards, the entomologists have to sort the insect and keep only the dangerous ones that they need to study.
The smart trap contains 64 “smart cells” contain infrared beams. When an insect passes next to such a cell, the intensity of the infrared light changes and it scans the shadow of the insect as if it scanned its fingerprints. The good news is that, last summer when it was tested in Harris County, Texas, it was 90 percent accurate in capturing the mosquitoes responsible with spreading the Zika virus.
Also, when the mosquitoes are captured, special sensors identify the temperature and humidity levels and other factors that determine each species to buzz and bite. This can help the officials schedule their pesticide spraying.
The smart mosquito trap is in a prototype form at the moment, but the accessible technology and the accuracy it showed so far might propel it to be used for public health purposes.
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