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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU researchers to explain upcoming mosquito release in public meeting

New Mexico State University biology professors Immo Hansen, Kathryn Hanley and John Xu will give a presentation about the research behind the upcoming release of sterile male mosquitoes on the NMSU campus in June. The research is part of the Southwest Aedes Research and Mapping project with the New Mexico Department of Health.

Three people kneeling on the grass with equipment
A team of researchers collected mosquitoes in Las Cruces for an New Mexico State University contract with the New Mexico Department of Health in 2017. From right, Kalli J.L. Martinez, project manager; Daniel Carter, graduate student in Geography and Carlos Yeelot, second year medical student at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, set up a device to trap mosquitoes at a soccer field. (NMSU photo by Andres Leighton)
graphic depiction of life cycle of mosquitoes
Graphic explains sterile insect technique.

The researchers will host at a town hall meeting for the Las Cruces community from 4–6 p.m. Thursday, May 24, in the College of Health and Social Services Annex, Room 202. The talk will be followed by a question and answer period.

The professors want to make sure people understand these mosquitoes to be released are not harmful and are of value in the efforts to control the insects that carry diseases such as dengue fever and Zika virus.

“The research is intended to control the mosquito population in the area by introducing male mosquitoes that have been irradiated to sterilize them, and then released on the NMSU campus,” said Hansen. “When such sterile males mate with female mosquitoes of their species, the females lay sterile eggs, and the overall population of mosquitoes declines.”

Hanley has been studying the Zika virus for 12 years. She and geography professor Michaela Buenemann are currently working with the New Mexico Department of Health to map the geographic distribution of mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus in the state. Hansen and Xu are engaged in other areas of research involving mosquito vector control.

Hansen heads NMSU’s Molecular Vector Physiology Lab, focused on techniques and strategies to manage mosquito populations and prevent epidemics of mosquito-borne diseases.

Xu leads research about mosquitoes’ microbiome, the bacteria and fungi that live together with the mosquito. Manipulating the mosquito microbiome also can help mosquito control efforts.

The project is targeting yellow fever mosquito (Aedes agegypti) populations on campus. The release of the sterile male mosquitoes is planned for mid-June. As part of the research, female mosquitoes will be captured and tested to assess whether this method of interdicting mosquito proliferation is successful.