Thursday, July 25, 2013

The disease vectors, my friend, are blowing in the wind  Australian researchers are developing a new tool to help track and manage the vast numbers of disease-carrying insects blown from Asia into northern Australia every year by cyclones and monsoon winds.

The new software and modelling tool is among the projects to be developed as part of the CSIRO's new Biosecurity Flagship launched in Canberra today, a dedicated vehicle bringing together CSIRO experts around the range of Biosecurity issues that challenge Australia.

The Tool for Assessing Pest and Pathogen Airborne Spread, known as TAPPAS and jointly being developed by the CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, will model the risks associated with wind-assisted migration of species like Culicoides, a biting midge that carries an animal disease called Bluetongue virus.

Bluetongue virus in livestock can cause fever, oral and nasal haemorrhages, swollen tongue, emaciation and can slow down wool production in sheep. Its potential spread within Australia is a major concern.

"The appearance of some strains of Culicoides can only be explained by wind-borne movement and we know of a number of other insects that are detected across northern Australia after cyclones," said Gary Fitt, Director CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship.

"That's part of the reason why one of our projects is to develop a model to help predict wind-assisted arrivals of insects or plant pathogens into northern Australia, or in fact into any part of Australia. With the same models, we can then predict where these organisms might spread and also use the model in reverse mode to backtrack where they may have came from. That helps us better understand how to prepare for and manage an outbreak."...

Culicoides imicola blood feeding female midges showing stages of blood feeding in relation to transmission of viruses. Shot by Alan R Walker, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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