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Emory researchers develop better way of monitoring disease-carrying mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are well-known for the problems they carry along with them: malaria, dengue fever, West Nile, to name only a few. Methods of tracking and monitoring local mosquito populations have evolved over time, too, of course, coming a long way from the more basic method of pumping insecticide into an environment and counting the specimens collected.

Emory University scientists have now one-upped the current method of monitoring mosquitoes, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s device, called the CDC Backpack Aspirator (CDC-BP) is an effective one, if not a bit bulky. Developed out of necessity during field research, Emory researchers have produced a similar device, only one that is much lighter, further-reaching, and most importantly, significantly cheaper to produce.

The Emory device is called the Prokopack. Its make-up is surprisingly simple: a plastic reservoir, a wire screen, a plumbing pipe coupler, a wire screen, a battery-powered blowing motor, and extension poles. The Prokopack, just like its predecessor the CDC-BP, sucks up mosquitoes into a reservoir, allowing researchers and surveyors to accurately count specimens.

“This device has broad potential, not only for getting more accurate counts of mosquito populations, but for better understanding mosquito ecology,” says Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, for whom the device was named.

Though the Emory scientists are currently pursuing a patent on the Prokopack, they have eagerly made public the design instructions for anyone with access to a hardware store and about $50. This is exciting news for researchers in developing countries – the ones with the most prominent mosquito problems – as it gives them access to a very efficient technology.

For more information on the Prokopack, visit Emory’s own eScienceCommons. Also, the abstract of the researchers’ report (published in The Journal of Medical Entomology) can be found here.

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