Public Health Partnership Strengthens Mosquito Control Efforts in Haiti

Story Number: NNS170809-15Release Date: 8/9/2017 3:29:00 PM
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By Lt. Matthew Montgomery, Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The Navy Entomology Center of Excellence (NECE) announced Aug. 9 its partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Public and Population Health (MPPH) for field trials of a new class of long lasting low toxicity insecticides.

This unique partnership is helping to improve the capabilities of Haiti's mosquito control professionals and also uncover the source of agricultural pests in the United States.

As part of a Department of Defense (DOD) grant to evaluate new forms of pesticides, NECE entomologists and Preventive Medicine Technicians have been conducting ongoing tests in Gressier, Haiti with Attractive Toxic Sugar Baits (ATSB). The ATSB combines a sugar rich fruit concentrate with a natural insecticide, boric acid. Mosquitoes are attracted to the sugary fruit syrup and end up eating the boric acid with it, killing them. The ATSB is sprayed on vegetation and can last for up to five weeks.

"We chose to do our ATSB testing in Haiti because besides being an important SOUTHCOM partner nation, it has an abundance of the specific types of mosquitoes we're trying to protect troops from. Namely the species that transmit diseases like malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, and Zika," said Lt. Cmdr. Ian Sutherland, NECE's Technical Director.

After the ATSB treatment Haitian field technicians collected and counted mosquitoes to see if the insecticide was effective in reducing mosquito numbers. The team also used their field tests as a training opportunity for their Haitian vector control counterparts from the Ministry of Public and Population Health.

"The Haitians have been really supportive and great people to work with. None of our work is possible without Haiti's support," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Casey Clark, the project's leading petty officer.

So far the ATSB has worked better than expected, even during the rainy season when it was feared it would be washed off of foliage. This meant that the people living on and around the test area saw a two thirds reduction in mosquito populations for several weeks. NECE will return to Haiti to evaluate how a traditional chemical pesticide performs compared to the ATSB.

NECE's work in Haiti is also potentially benefiting America's farmers. The team is playing a role in a multi-national study to discover the source of agricultural pest moths, the Soybean Looper and Corn Earworm, in the United States.

"Basically, our populations of these pests migrate to the U.S. from southern latitudes each year. The goal of this study is to capture these moths around the Caribbean and South America, sequence their genomes, compare those genes to the moths in America, and hopefully find out where the U.S. moths are coming from. The ultimate goal would be to control them at their source," explained Clark.

Local Haitian lab workers quickly became experts at trapping and identifying the moths, leading to a successful submission of samples to NECE's university research partners.

According to Sutherland, this project has been a win-win for all and lays a strong foundation for the road ahead, "NECE's collaborative activity near Gressier brings together the best efforts and interests of Haiti and the United States in addressing an area of common concern," added Sutherland. "We sincerely hope to build on this type of successful teamwork in tackling other issues in the region that are of mutual benefit to everyone."

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