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Francis… there has been tremendous success in the research being conducted worldwide


NPI making strides in vector control

THE NATURAL PRODUCTS Institute (NPI) at The UWI, Mona has been conducting intensive research on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses, to understand putative mechanisms developed by these mosquitoes which makes them resistant to insecticide sprays.

Dr Rupika Delgoda, Director of the NPI, told UWIMONA Now that preliminary investigations conducted on the mosquito population in Kingston and St Andrew point to a potential resistance issue within the Aedes population. She said thorough island-wide investigations should be carried out, along with studies to gain insights on mechanisms underlying any resistance. She is also of the view that natural products could be considered in developing effective solutions. “Our research on genetic expressions of key metabolising enzymes can be used as a starting point for the development of effective pesticide synergists using natural products,” Delgoda said.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

“There are multiple mechanisms that the mosquito can use to develop resistance. We have tested 30 different natural extracts to overcome such resistance and preliminary results have been very promising. We believe that with further research, we could engage the use of natural products for overcoming insecticide resistance; hopefully in the not too distant future,” she added.

Dr Sheena Francis, Research Fellow at the NPI, has been conducting research on vector control since 2015 on two sites in Kingston and St Andrew.

Dr Sheena Francis, Research Fellow at the NPI, has been conducting research on vector control since 2015 on two sites in Kingston and St Andrew.

Globally, mosquito-borne diseases have been on the rise. Many countries have been tracking, monitoring and characterising insecticide resistance in mosquitoes, while considering novel options for overcoming resistance, to reduce the mosquito population and the spread of illnesses.

With this in mind, and the current increase in the Zika virus in Jamaica, Research Fellow at the NPI, Dr Sheena Francis, has been conducting research on vector control since 2015 based on two sites in Jamaica – Kingston and St Andrew. The NPI has been working in collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK and the Colorado State University, USA, with grants from The UWI.

Francis, who is currently engaged in postdoctoral research on vector control at the University of Florida at Gainesville, is very hopeful that a solution will be found to control the spread of the viruses carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito as many countries have been joining forces to find a solution to mosquito-borne illnesses. “Insecticide resistance has been reported in many countries, including Latin America. There has been tremendous success in the research being conducted worldwide on the mosquito vector, human-mosquito barriers, the infectious agent and medications. The World Health Organization [WHO] has reported a decrease in malaria in Africa over the past ten years. This is due to the collaborative efforts of scientists for a cause, and NPI is joining in on that cause,” said Francis.

Funding received from The UWI has allowed the NPI to reach out to collaborators from universities overseas, for conducting detailed biomolecular work. However, the NPI has applied for additional funding from international organisations to conduct long-term monitoring and to extend the research to other areas of Jamaica. “We are seeking a larger grant. We have submitted several grant applications locally and internationally. With such aid, we wish to establish a dedicated insectary and a vector control laboratory capable of conducting biomolecular work locally. We believe that vector control is a good way to control the spread of mosquito–borne illnesses as there is no effective vaccine or medicine against these viruses at present,” Delgoda said.

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