Warwick Uni engineers join fight against man's deadliest foe - The Rugby Observer

Warwick Uni engineers join fight against man's deadliest foe

Rugby Editorial 27th Dec, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

RESEARCHERS at Warwick University are waging war on man’s deadliest foe.

Malaria carrying mosquitoes are responsible for more than a million deaths around the world every year.

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

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 to protect people sleeping in malaria areas.

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 Warwick engineers devised a method to capture a vast amount of data on the behaviour of mosquitoes using a modified back lighting technique which can record the insects 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 massive amount of data produced every hour.

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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