Cyprus Mail

Mosquito experts visit Akrotiri

In recent years, Akrotiri has become the centre of excellence on this issue and it has hosted similar events previously as a result of the success it is having in trying to control the mosquito problem

The Sovereign Base Area Environmental Department and the Joint Services Health Unit (JSHU) hosted a training seminar last week on harmonising Aedes Invasive Mosquito (AIM) surveillance across Europe.

The event, which took place at the Akrotiri Environmental and Education Centre, saw some of the most widely-respected experts from all over Europe come together to discuss and learn more about mosquito control.

In recent years, Akrotiri has become the centre of excellence on this issue and it has hosted similar events previously as a result of the success it is having in trying to control the mosquito problem.

Major Chris Taylor, who heads up the JSHU team, explained why this seminar has become so important to European academics who have a vested interest in understanding more about the issue.

He said: “Mosquito-borne diseases emerging, or re-emerging in Europe, are a serious cause of concern to human health. This workshop aimed to bring together mosquito expert students from across Europe to provide a theoretical basis and develop the practical skills for the implementation of harmonized AIM surveillance in Europe, with the final goal to implement a standardised pan-European monitoring scheme in the summer of 2020 and beyond.”

This latest seminar saw students from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Albania, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Turkey, Cyprus, Moldavia, Belgium, Romania and Croatia, visit the centre, where they also undertook field work to see how the JSHU team and the SBA Environmental Department work.

Major Taylor continued: “The Cyprus location in the Mediterranean means it will be sentinel for invasive mosquitos moving towards mainland Europe.
“The SBAs, through its Environmental Department and JSHU, have been monitoring and controlling invasive mosquito species in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive way for over 50 years, so we have become experts in the field.

“The fact that some of the top experts in the world come to this event in Akrotiri says a lot and it is important that we are able to share what we know to help other countries across Europe and beyond.”

Dr Kelly Martinou, one of Europe’s top entomologists working for JSHU, is at the forefront of the Bases mosquito work and she feels last week’s seminar proved highly beneficial to all those that took part.

She explained: “This is a really important forum because it allows experts from all over to Europe to come together, ask questions and share ideas about mosquitos.
“During the seminar, there was no specific subject matter to discuss, we wanted to encourage open conversation about any issues concerning mosquitos. Of course, there are subject areas that concerned all of us but it was important to answer as many questions as possible.”

In fact, during the seminar, many of the questions may have seemed obscure to some, but not to Dr Martinou, she continued: “Those at the seminar had a genuine interest in mosquitos and we had questions like ‘how viable are genetically modified mosquitos (GMO) as a form of control’?

“This is an interesting subject to look at because it is can be used. The idea is that you put GMO, male mosquitos into an environment to mate with the females and when the eggs arrive, they are born dead and this is a form of control. This was just one of the issues we discussed.”

Dr Martinou also said JSHU and the Bases environmental team were keen to build on the success of the seminar and plan to hold more in the future.
“We are part of the European Cooperation of Science and Technology,” she said. “This allows us to meet each other, solve problems and work together and share any data we produce to get a better grasp of mosquito control and surveillance.

“The first meeting of this kind was held here in Cyprus and we are very proud of that and we will certainly hold more in the futrure.”

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