Laser-Based Approach For Disease Understanding

Physicists are investigating a laser-based approach to illuminate the most subtle aspects of mosquito activity and better track populations that may carry a viral threat.

A study used light detection and ranging (lidar), an infrared optical remote-sensing technology capable of capturing the rate at which mosquitos beat their wings in flight, known as wing beat frequency (WBF). Researchers are learning two key characteristics that can help distinguish which mosquitos are vectors for infectious disease and which are not by studying variations of WBF in mosquitoes: species and gender.

The laser-based method can distinguish female mosquito WBFs, which typically average around 500 wing beats per second, from male mosquito WBFs, which typically average 600 wing beats per second.

The mosquitos are placed in a tube enclosure. They will transit through our instrument’s laser path, producing a specific signature of light that reflects toward the instrument based on their wing movement. That light backscattering contains the information we need to identify whatever crosses the beam, whether a bee, a housefly, or a male or female mosquito. Along with their laser, the team has a telescope that collects all of this light and can analyze it in real-time.

The team tested its system’s ability to distinguish between male and female mosquitos of four species previously identified as disease vectors in the lab: Aedes albopictus, Aedes Vexans, Aedes aegypti, and another species of the Culex genus.

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