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A mosquito is sounding the alarm in Florida of possible diseases

Scientists from the University of Florida (UF) alerted to this possibility Culex lactator mosquitoa species of tropics found to be present in this case, could serve as a potential vector for disease transmission.

The state university center released a statement Wednesday that professors from the Medical Entomology Laboratory in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IFAS) showed in a study that Culex lactator permanently reside in at least three counties in Florida.

Culex lactator originated in Central America and the northern part of South America, and belongs to the Culex group of mosquitoes, which includes species that transmit West Nile viruses and St. Louis encephalitis.

The scientific study, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, notes that this species was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2018 by UF/IFAS professors during an investigation to detect non-native mosquitoes.

The study highlights that mosquito populations have since been recorded in Miami-Dade, Collier, and Lee counties, an expansion that, they say, has not been sufficiently investigated.

Lawrence Reeves, lead author of the study and a mosquito biologist at the UF/IFAS Research Center noted that there are about 90 species of mosquitoes in Florida, and the list, he said, “grows as new species are introduced, from other parts of the world.”

The expert stressed that the introduction of new species of mosquitoes such as this one is worrisome, because they are not local, “as they are considered the most problematic.”

“Culex lactator is physically similar to the mosquito species known in Florida. It looks more like a common one,” Reeves explained, after noting that because of this similarity, its presence in an area could easily go unnoticed.

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Reeves and his team of scientists used DNA analysis to not only discover that they had found a new species of mosquito, but also to identify it as Culex lactator.

He explained that every year Florida faces problems related to mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile, eastern equine encephalitis, dengue fever, chikungunya and others.

He noted, “It is too early to know whether the Culex lactator will cause any problems, but it is often difficult to predict the outcome because not all types of mosquitoes are equally able to transmit the virus.”

Culex lactator primary samples were collected in 2018 from rural areas of Miami-Dade County south of Florida City, followed by adults and additional insects in 2022 from the same sites.

In the same year, the presence of Culex lactator was discovered in Collier and Lee counties.

In Florida, Reeves explained, 17 non-native mosquito species have been established, with 11 first reported in the past two decades and six in the last five years.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, Aedes albopictus, and Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito, which are major disease vectors in the United States, as is the new species Culex lactator, are all non-native species to Florida from the tropics.