Research to stop the Zika virus going on at Millersville University

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MILLERSVILLE, Pa. -- Stopping the harmful Zika virus is a mission for many countries around the world, including the U.S.

Research about capturing the mosquitoes known to transmit Zika and other diseases is happening in central Pennsylvania.

FOX43 news spoke with Dr. John Wallace, a professor of biology at Millersville University.

Wallace is a medical entomologist, a person who studies bugs. This professor's bug of choice is the mosquito.

Most people are turned off by creepy-crawly, or flying insects, but not necessarily when it's their field of expertise.

Dr. Wallace said "I've been collecting insects since I was 8 years old, and it started with butterflies. It just kind of got out of control, into mosquitoes."

Environmental biology student Kayli Thomas said, "You tell people you work with mosquitoes and they're kind of put off by that a little bit. That's fair, but when you work with them every day, you get kind of attached."

Dr. Wallace's current project is figuring out how to entice the mosquito to prevent harmful diseases from spreading.

"That behavior can be exploited to trap and actually ensnare them, and pull them out of the disease pathogen transmission picture," Dr. Wallace said.

Some may wonder why trap, and just not kill off the mosquito which has been known to transmit the zika virus.

"We are never going to get rid of this mosquito, this mosquito wiped out a third of Philadelphia back in the 1700s. It's still a major vector of yellow fever, hence the common name of Aedes Aegypti is the Yellow Fever mosquito," Dr. Wallace said.

The female mosquito is the only one to carry transmit diseases, but it takes more than a male to lure her away. That's what Dr. Wallace's research will figure out.

"In these countries where Zika is very prevalent, houses don't have window screens. Access to the internal part of the house is fairly easy. So, the idea would be to lure these mosquitoes away from inside of the house," Dr. Wallace said.

"Any mosquito that we can catch and control would be a mosquito that isn't going to send a pathogen to someone else, although we may not control all of them, what we can do is important," Thomas said.

While this research is being done in central Pennsylvania, these researchers hope once they figure out ways to entice and trap the mosquito which carries Zika and other diseases, that people around the world will benefit.