As part of our dedication to high quality research, we employ a full-time research officer. The MARC Scientist is hosted by the Mosquito Control Laboratory, which is a part of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane. The scientist's mandate is to conduct and oversee laboratory and field-based research projects on mosquitoes and mosquito-borne viral diseases of public health importance in Australia. The research has an operational focus, with its outcomes expected to deliver insights that MARC stakeholders can use to understand and tackle key problems. The collaboration between MARC and QIMR Berghofer ensures access to a dedicated mosquito insectary and molecular facilities, as well as the resources, expertise and networks of a well-supported mosquito biology group. In addition to a core set of projects, the MARC Scientist also has an extension, liaison and administrative role as well as providing supervision of postgraduate students undertaking work relevant to the membership. Brian Johnson has held the MARC scientist position since October 2018.
The MARC also uses its resources to solicit and fund other project proposals as required and in alignment with its research priorities. These currently include work on invasion pathways for exotic mosquitoes and the development of new trapping techniques for the surveillance of arboviruses.
The research that we sponsor is guided by the priorities determined by the MARC membership.
These are reviewed regularly and the following six themes represent our current interests:
Ross River virus (RRV) is the most common mosquito arbovirus affecting humans in Australia. Approximately 5000 human cases are reported annually. The transmission cycle of RRV is complex, with at least a dozen mosquito vectors and a diverse but poorly understood reservoir host community that may include macropods, humans, possums and birds. These factors, combined with the circulation of multiple RRV strains of varying virulence, make outbreak prediction and the formation of public health mitigation strategies difficult. Research priorities include:
Globally, urban development is concentrated along the world’s coasts yet urban planning guidelines often overlook the problems that human encroachment on or near coastal mosquito habitat may cause. Developments near breeding sites (e.g. coastal marshes and mangrove swamps) will create potentially unbearable mosquito (and/or biting midge) biting burdens for residents unless effective measures are taken. This also has public health implications where the species in question include competent disease vectors. Research priorities include:
Southeast Queensland is threatened by two invasive mosquito vectors: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Aedes aegypti, the primary dengue vector, was present in Brisbane into the 1950s. It is not entirely clear why the population disappeared, but it may re-establish from North Queensland or from various remnant pockets in the South East. Incursions from overseas also threaten the establishment of exotic, insecticide-resistant variants in Australia. Aedes albopictus is not on mainland Australia but it is highly invasive and present throughout the Torres Strait islands. The movement of eggs from the Torres Strait to the mainland in shipping containers or personal effects, and the species subsequent establishment in urban areas, remains a tremendous risk. Mainland Australia requires effective mosquito surveillance programs both in and outside of first ports of entry to reduce establishment risks. Research priorities include:
Mosquito management programs in Southeast Queensland emphasise larval control in breeding sites with the use of target-specific compounds such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) and S-methoprene, but there are also situations where adult management is appropriate. Vegetation barrier or harbourage treatments may be effective where residential zones are adjacent to breeding sites that are inaccessible for larval control, but their efficacy requires evaluation. The volatile pyrethroids (i.e. metofluthrin or transfluthrin) may have indoor and outdoor applications against mosquitoes or biting midges. Research priorities include:
Two freshwater mosquito species implicated in the transmission of Ross River virus (RRV) are Culex annulirostris and Aedes procax. Larvae of the former occur in a number of habitat types including temporary grass-dominated pools and permanent freshwater ponds, often on private land. The latter’s habitat is poorly described. Local governments require a greater understanding of the role that these species play in RRV transmission, their most productive habitats and the effective management of these sites. Research priorities include:
Aedes vigilax is the most pestiferous mosquito in Southeast Queensland, particularly near the saltmarsh pools and mangrove swamps where they thrive. They are persistent biters, can disperse for long distances (>5km) and are suspected vectors of Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses. Their great dispersal capacity makes them a concern for new housing developments near coastal habitat. Research priorities include: