Scientists at The Ohio State University may have found a way to control the population of yellow fever mosquitoes that are responsible for spreading multiple untreatable viruses in humans. In a study published in the journal Insects, the researchers have described how mosquitoes have evolved a natural resistance to some chemical insecticides and offer an alternative called carbon black, a type of carbon-based nanoparticles, or CNPs.
According to a report by news agency ANI, a study co-author and an associate professor of entomology at Ohio State, Peter Piermarini described CNPs as “microscopic” materials made out of organic elements.
During the study, the scientists used a modified version of carbon black called Emperor 1800, which is often used to coat automobiles black. While CNPs is a relatively new scientific development, they have been considered new tools to control various insect and pest infestations, Piermarini said in a statement.
“If we can learn more about how carbon black works and how to use it safely, we could design a commercially available nanoparticle that is highly effective against insecticide-resistant mosquitoes,” Piermarini said.
The yellow fever mosquito, or Aedes aegypti, is a species of mosquito known for spreading not just yellow fever, but also diseases like the Zika virus, dengue fever, and chikungunya fever. The adult mosquitoes rarely fly more than a few hundred meters from where they emerge, however, their abundance leads to the steady transmission of diseases which is enough to claim tens of thousands of lives every year and hospitalize hundreds of thousands more people.
Due to this very reason, the mosquito is considered to be one of the deadliest animals on the planet. While conducting the study, the researchers’ aim was to figure out how toxic these nanomaterials could be to mosquito larvae or the immature form of the insect.
The researchers worked with two different strains of the yellow fever mosquito inside the lab, one extremely susceptible to typical chemical insecticides, and the other, extremely resistant to them, in order to test whether Emperor 1800 would be effective in stopping that process, as reported by news agency ANI.
The scientists applied the carbon black nanomaterials to the water during the earliest stages of the mosquito’s life cycle and found that they were able to determine that CNPs kill mosquito larvae both quickly and efficiently.
“Given the properties of carbon black, it has the most potential for killing larvae because it can be suspended in water,” Piermarini said.
The findings of the study revealed that the material seemed to accumulate on the mosquito larvae’s head, abdomen, and even in its gut, meaning that at some point, the larvae were ingesting smaller particles of carbon black. The scientists also warned that before using it, the carbon black needs to undergo rigorous testing to ensure it won’t harm humans and the environment as a whole.