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The main constraint to the fight against container-breeding mosquito vectors of human arboviruses is the difficulty in targeting the multiplicity of larval sources, mostly represented by small man-made water containers. The aim of this work is to assess the feasibility of the “auto-dissemination” approach, already tested for Aedes aegypti, as a possible alternative to traditional, inefficient control tools, against Ae. albopictus in urban areas. The approach is based on the possibility that wild adult females, exposed to artificial resting sites contaminated with pyriproxyfen, can disseminate this juvenile hormone analogue to larval habitats, thus interfering with adult emergence.
We carried out four field experiments in two areas of Rome that are typically highly infested with Ae. albopictus, i.e. the main cemetery and a small green area within a highly urbanised neighbourhood. In each area we used 10 pyriproxyfen “dissemination” stations, 10 “sentinel” sites and 10 covered, control sites. The sentinel and control sites each contained 25 Ae. albopictus larvae. These were monitored for development and adult emergence.
When a 5% pyriproxyfen powder was used to contaminate the dissemination sites, we observed significantly higher mortality at the pupal stage in the sentinel sites (50–70%) than in the controls (<2%), showing that pyriproxyfen was transferred by mosquitoes into sentinel sites and that it had a lethal effect.
The results support the potential feasibility of the auto-dissemination approach to control Ae. albopictus in urban areas. Further studies will be carried out to optimize the method and provide an effective tool to reduce the biting nuisance caused by this aggressive species and the transmission risk of diseases such as Dengue and Chikungunya. These arboviruses pose an increasing threat in Europe as Ae. albopictus expands its range.