“They live and breed in the vicinity of houses, so the chances of Aedes aegypti being exposed to light pollution are very likely,” said Duffield, who is also affiliated with the Eck Institute for Global Health and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.
For the experiment, lead author and staff scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences Samuel S. C. Rund allowed mosquitoes in cages to bite his arms under controlled conditions, including blood-feeding in the daytime, nighttime or nighttime under exposure to artificial light. When exposed to artificial light at night, the female mosquitoes, which are the only ones to blood-feed, were twice as likely to bite. The control group had no light and 29% of them bit at night. Meanwhile, 59% of mosquitoes exposed to the artificial light bit.
Results from the study will aid in giving epidemiologists a better understanding of the real risk of disease transmission by Aedes aegypti. It’s possible that it will also spur more recommendations for the use of bed nets, which provide barrier protection against mosquitoes.
“The impact of this research could be huge, and it probably has been overlooked,” Duffield said. “Epidemiologists may want to take light pollution into account when predicting infection rates.”
For more information on the study, including how researchers plan to experiment with other variables, see the complete study here.