Climate change: Future disease risk from mosquitos in Scotland

Legend, Researchers have so far mapped 16 varieties of mosquitoes in Scotland

  • Author, Kevin Keane
  • Role, BBC Scotland Environmental Correspondent

One of the most common types of mosquitoes has been identified for the first time in Scotland, according to researchers at the University of Glasgow.

They found 16 types of mosquitoes in Scotland, including Culex pipiens, which is widespread in North and South America, parts of Europe and parts of Asia and North Africa.

Professor Heather Ferguson, who led the study, said they were surprised to find insects in every corner of the country.

She warned that higher temperatures could lead to an increase in the number of mosquitoes, particularly those coming from areas where they can transmit diseases.

Legend, Professor Heather Ferguson says mosquitoes can now be found across Scotland

While Scots have long been harassed by swarms of midges, which thrive in the hot, humid conditions of the Scottish summer, little is known about the extent of mosquitoes north of the border.

Mosquitoes are larger than midges and have a proboscis with which they suck blood.

This means that mosquitoes are feared around the world as carriers of deadly diseases such as dengue and Zika.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 219 million people contract malaria from mosquitoes worldwide each year, leading to 400,000 deaths.

Experts have stressed that the type of mosquito that carries malaria is unlikely to be discovered in the UK in the near future, although an early warning system is important.

Legend, Locally sourced mosquitoes are being bred in a Glasgow laboratory

Until now, very little was known about the extent of mosquitoes in Scotland.

That’s why experts at the Virus Research Center are closely monitoring their movements to monitor the impact of climate change on the spread of diseases.

They hung traps in 24 locations across the country and lured the insects with the smell of carbon dioxide, which mimics human breathing.

They discovered 16 varieties out of around 4,000 worldwide.

The highest concentrations were at their sites around Loch Kinnordy in Angus and Broubster Leans in Caithness.

Professor Ferguson said: “As temperatures warm, we are going to see greater numbers of mosquitoes, potentially of different species, some of which could migrate from other areas where they can transmit diseases,” he said. she declared.

“They may be active for longer periods of time, which means they may be a risk.”

Legend, Dr Nick Phin says mosquito-borne viruses are spreading across Europe

Dr Nick Phin, medical director of Public Health Scotland, said mosquitoes could carry potentially fatal diseases so it was important to understand how they were spread.

He explained that in recent years, the West Nile virus, which is transmitted primarily to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, has spread across Europe.

“Cases have been identified in France,” said Dr Phin.

“It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine that they could be detected very soon in England and Scotland”

“It is warmer winters rather than summers that allow mosquitoes to survive.

“This is because colder conditions kill many insects, keeping populations lower.”

‘Surveillance system’

A major concern is that the UK is increasingly adapted to invasive species such as the Asian tiger mosquito, also known as Aedes albopictus, which carries dengue fever.

A recent report from the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) looked at the worst-case scenario.

They found that England would be the first country in the UK to be affected, with Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of the Scottish Lowlands also becoming suitable habitats later in the century.

Legend, Hanging traps collect mosquitoes across Scotland

Mosquitoes have already been responsible for recent cases of dengue fever in France and the chikungunya virus in Italy.

The UKHSA already has a surveillance system in place to quickly detect invasive mosquitoes, including a network of traps placed at UK borders that detect mosquito eggs.

The Scottish Government says it also funds research through the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Dr Phin says more government-supported studies are now needed to better understand the risks.

He said: “Without a baseline of what is happening now, it is difficult to say whether things are getting better or worse.

“If we have a formal system, we hope to quickly identify some of these species and take action to hopefully prevent them from breeding in the UK.

“We need a formal structure around this oversight.

“We need this to continue in a very systematic and structured way to understand what is happening but also to detect the first incursions of these mosquitoes into Scotland.”

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