May 14, 2021

Welsh scientists declare bio war on SBV midges [and mosquitoes]

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Figure1_natans_maleBy Andrew Forgrave  From Daily Post

Welsh scientists aim to deploy biological warfare to counter the threat of Schmallenberg Virus (SBV).

Researchers in Aberystwyth and Swansea hope to control midges, which carry the virus, by spraying them with a fungus.

They are also developing lures, using chemicals known to be in human and animal odours, to attract midges to “kill sites”, so maximising effectiveness.

If successful, the work could have huge implications for countries affected by mass killers such as malaria, as well as any other insect-borne diseases..

“Current control measures rely on synthetic pesticides, which pose a risk to humans and the environment.

“Natural alternatives do not,” said Prof Tariq Butt, of Swansea University, which is a partner in the IMPACT project, set up to combat forest pests.

It has been investigating a fungus as a midge control agent since bluetongue arrived in the UK in 2007.

But while bluetongue was eventually seen off by mass vaccination, vaccines for SBV are at least 18 months away.

A commercial fungal strain, V275, is already available and has been shown to kill up to 100% of adult midges and larvae.

“Now we are at looking at smart ways of using this fungus, trialling different lures to attract adult midges to baits contaminated with fungal spores,” said Prof Butt.

In 2007 a Liverpool University project in the Bala area found that midge-borne livestock diseases would swiftly spread between farms unless steps were taken to slow their advance.

While the study concluded that housing livestock would be effective, it was not seen as a practical solution. Instead Prof Butt advocates targeted fungal spraying around midge lures, placed near breeding sites like manure, ponds and trees.

Such an approach could also be used for other insects such as mosquitos and ticks, he said.

The IMPACT team, which includes specialists from Forest Research in Wales (FRW), is now looking for sites to carry out more woodland pest trials.

Project leader Prof Hugh Evans, of FRW, said: “Schmallenburg is a classic example of the interaction between climate and the appearance of diseases in new areas.”

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