17th Oct, 2017

Warwick University leading the way on life-saving research against world's deadliest animal

Coventry Editorial 3rd Sep, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

RESEARCHERS at Warwick University are leading the way in curbing the effects of the world’s deadliest animal.

Using imaging technologies that are normally used in automotive engines, engineers at the University’s School of Engineering are developing better netting and protection against mosquitoes.

Working alongside entomologists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, engineers David Towers, Natalia Angarita and Catherine Towers hope to explore the best insecticide treatment and physical design of the protection for sleeping people in areas where the malaria spreading insects are a problem.

In the past, researchers investigating how mosquitoes engage with insecticide treated barriers such as netting, have just recorded their final landing locations.

But this does not give a full picture of how the insects approach and handle protective barriers.

So the University of Warwick engineers devised a method that would capture a vast amount of data on the behaviour of the tiny mosquitoes using a modified back lighting technique which can record the mosquitoes without them realising – meaning their natural behaviour does not change.

Using two cameras, the researchers capture 50 images a second – the equivalent of 360,000 high resolution pictures every hour.

And due to the sheer amount of date being produced, the Warwick Engineers had to write special software to cope with the 1.4 TerraBytes (TB) of data produced every hour.

Speaking about the project, Professor David Towers said: “There is a lot of interest in the analysis of so-called ‘big data’ – here we have the added complexity of capturing information from the field with everything powered from petrol fuelled generators and we need very robust algorithms to be tolerant of the natural variability in behaviour exhibited by wild mosquitoes.”

With the current phase of the research grant nearing its conclusion, initial indications suggest that the mosquitoes do not realise a net is treated before they touch it and future research will build on these findings.

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