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UT Scientists Invent New Method To Track Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Vivian Abagiu
UT Austin
A new tool uses a cellphone, a 3D-printed plastic box and a chemical mixture to determine whether a mosquito carries diseases.

Scientists say they’ve invented a new tool to fight mosquito-borne illnesses. The technology could help public health officials rapidly track and fight the spread of diseases like Zika and dengue fever.

All it takes is a cellphone, a small 3D-printed plastic box and a chemical mixture, says Sanchita Bhadra, a molecular biologist at UT Austin who worked on the project.

You catch your mosquito, squish it up and mix it with chemicals, she says. The test tells you what species it is and whether it carries disease-fighting bacteria called Wolbachia.

The data, which can then be recorded on a cellphone, is crucial for tracking diseases like dengue and Zika. The tool allows researchers to test mosquitos quickly in the field instead of bringing the bugs back to a lab.   

“This provides a faster approach to doing surveillance," Bhadra says, which is helpful "under more austere conditions."

Researchers hope to expand the test to rapidly identify not just the mosquitos and bacteria, but the diseases themselves.

Bhadra says the tool should also be able to test other insects, like ticks, and illnesses, like Lyme disease.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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