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Queensland researchers have begun breeding an aggressive and potentially dangerous mosquito species as they prepare for it to invade mainland Australia.
The Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is named for its striped body and aggressive bloodlust.
It is thought to be the most invasive mosquito in the world and has caused epidemics that have affected millions of people.
Scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane are now breeding the mosquito in order to study its potential threat to Australia.
It has spread from South-East Asia to parts of Europe, Africa and the Americas in recent decades and has become established in the Torres Strait Islands in far north Queensland over the past 10 years.
The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Mosquito Control Laboratory, Associate Professor Greg Devine, says the species will inevitably find its way into mainland Australia.
“It is absolutely only a matter of time and of course no-one can predict what that time-scale is, but we know once it gets into places it spreads pretty quickly,” he said.
The mosquito is capable of spreading diseases including dengue, Ross River virus and a condition called chikungunya, which causes debilitating joint pain and can last for months or years.