Dumped plastic containers lead to mosquito abundance on the Lakshadweep islands

  • Human-made artificial habitats such as dumped plastic containers on the Lakshadweep islands are leading to a profusion of Aedes mosquitoes that cause dengue, chikungunya and other diseases, according to a recent study.
  • The study finds Aedes albopictus is above the dengue epidemic threshold with a greater risk of dengue transmission in the islands but not Aedes aegypti.
  • Vector control strategies targeting plastic pollution from household waste in these islands are needed on the islands

Between October 2019 and January 2020, a group of mosquito hunters was carefully nurturing mosquito larvae in makeshift labs on the Lakshadweep archipelago in the Arabian Sea, patiently waiting until they emerged. These larvae lurked in a variety of natural and artificial habitats that store water, such as coconut shells, tree holes, discarded plastic containers, discarded utensils, tyres, boats and even grinding stones.

Once the larvae emerged, and following sampling of adult mosquitoes, these mosquito hunters – researchers at Tata Institute for Genetics and Society – were able to offer a clearer picture of what transpires on these remote oceanic islands as plastic trash creates more breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The Aedes species of mosquitoes, responsible for dengue, chikungunya, Zika fever, and other vector-borne diseases, were thriving very well in the dumped plastic containers where rainwater accumulated. “These (containers) were mainly trash generated within the local communities and were abundant. The water conditions are also optimum. The Aedes species do not need deep water surfaces to breed, they usually breed in shallow holdings or drums, etc.,” says evolutionary ecologist Farah Ishtiaq, the corresponding author of the study documenting the findings.

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