Using Mobile Phones as Mobile Mosquito Trackers.

Posted 9 November 2017

This blog was written by Megan Harris of SUNY Upstate Medical University who is attending TropMed17 as Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellow in Tropical Medicine.

With over 3 billion people worldwide at risk of mosquito-borne illnesses and millions of deaths attributed to mosquito bites per year, efforts to control and prevent outbreaks are high priority for the field of tropical medicine. Malaria, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and more—what if we could use something as simple as the phones we carry in our pockets to tell us when and where the risk for transmission of these dangerous diseases is highest?  
In her presentation at TropMed17, "Using mobile phones as acoustic sensors for high-throughput surveillance of mosquito ecology," Haripriya Mukuundarajan of Stanford University shed light on how, indeed, we all can play a role in mosquito surveillance. Through a simple technology like our mobile devices, she said, “we can use the annoying buzz of mosquitos for their own tracking!” 
Male mosquitos must achieve the same wing frequency as females in order to mate. Mukuundarajan and her team have found that the varying pitch of wing beats allows distinction between mosquito species. And mobile devices are sensitive enough to pick up these variations.  
It’s simple. Identify the primary microphone on your phone, and use any recording application to capture the sound. The recording can be uploaded to “The Stanford Abuzz Project” website. Moreover, both smartphones and the older mobile devices, with their built-in noise-cancelling attributes, are comparable in terms of data produced. 
This innovative idea offers all the benefits of easy implementation, hardware scalability, and expansive coverage.  The researchers hope pooling data ,eventually can lead to  mosquito maps of the world. Then, control efforts can be focused, resources can be utilized with maximum effectiveness, and we can be one step closer to ending mosquito-borne illnesses. 
Mukuundarajan ended her presentation with a musical medley of mosquito buzzes—one last reminder of the potential utility that these buzzes can bring to the world of mosquito surveillance.