‘Sugar baiting’ female mozzies to reduce dengue cases


Curbing Aedes breeding: DBKL workers fogging a housing area in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. — SS KANESAN/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Baiting female Aedes mosquitoes with sugar could be the key to reducing dengue cases, which have infected over 23,000 people and killed 16 in the first 11 weeks of the year.

The “sugar bait technology” is a mimic of flower nectar laced with toxins that will end the Aedes mosquito’s life cycle at every stage.

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“When the mosquitoes feed on the bait, even the insects’ legs will come into contact with the toxins.

“As a result, the toxins will contaminate the water in their breeding sites, affecting even their eggs and larvae,” said Assoc Prof Dr Nur Faeza Abu Kassim, a medical entomologist at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Female mosquitoes suck on human blood to get the protein and fat needed to make eggs, while male mosquitoes are content with only plant juices.

Yet, when a glucose-rich food source is available, even the females will join the males in feasting on this energy source.

Between January and March 19 this year, dengue has infected 23,753 people and caused 16 deaths.

This strategy is Penang’s latest focus, with the state having seen 183 cases between March 12 and 18, according to statistics released by the Penang Health Department.

“Existing methods like fogging do not eliminate them fast enough,” said state health committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin, adding that authorities should now adopt the sugar bait technology.

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USM virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said the best preventive method for dengue was to eliminate mosquito egg-laying sites.

“In every household, items used to store water or which may collect rainwater should be properly covered, discarded, or cleaned at least once a week to ensure there are no eggs or larvae.

“We can also protect ourselves on a daily basis by using window screens, mosquito nets, mosquito coils and repellents.

“The public can also explore the iDengue portal to learn important information about dengue to best protect themselves,” she said.

A spike in the Aedes mosquito population can be expected during the Qing Ming Festival, during which many in the Chinese community will visit the graves of their ancestors.

When relatives make their offerings, receptacles for joss sticks and candles are usually placed in front of the tombstones; however, some are left behind and become prime mosquito breeding grounds after it rains.

State environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the management of cemeteries in Penang had been instructed to be diligent about cleaning the cemeteries during Qing Ming.

“We have asked them to put more trash bins there so that families who visit their ancestors’ graves can conveniently discard their rubbish,” he said.

Since a spike in dengue cases is historically observed shortly after Qing Ming, Phee has appealed to the public to avoid leaving any sort of container behind after performing their rites.

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Aedes , mosquitoes , sugar , dengue

   

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