When the West Nile virus became a major public health concern in Ontario in 2003, Laurentian University professor Gerardo Ulibarri set out to devise a method to control the mosquitoes that spread the disease. His solution, called a “modified ovitrap,” tricks this particular species of mosquitos to lay their eggs on a washable strip inside a liquid-filled receptacle. The strip is rinsed periodically and the liquid recycled, eliminating the eggs and larvae and thus reducing the mosquito population.
Dr. Ulibarri, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Laurentian, says tests in Sudbury found the ovitraps reduced the population of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes by 80 percent in areas where the traps were located. He has had similar results in reducing mosquitoes carrying dengue fever in Mexico, and he is now testing the traps in Guatemala with the help of a $112,000 Grand Challenges Canada grant. A trap for malaria-carrying mosquitos is also in the works. As well, Dr. Ulibarri has teamed up with a Waterloo-based company, Maxtech Mosquito Control Inc., to develop a commercial ovitrap that is scheduled to go on the market this year.
The World Health Organization, says Dr. Ulibarri, has recognized the mosquito as “the most dangerous animal in the world.”