A remarkable find in the coastal municipality of Pori, Finland, has unveiled the presence of a previously undocumented mosquito species.
The discovery of Culex modestus marks the 44th mosquito species identified in Finland and the northernmost occurrence of this species in Europe.
Renowned researcher Lorna Culverwell from the University of Helsinki’s Department of Virology made this breakthrough finding while examining mosquito samples collected during the summer of 2022.
Culverwell’s meticulous analysis involved scrutinizing the genitalia of the mosquitoes and conducting DNA testing.
This rigorous process revealed the presence of one male Culex modestus specimen among the collected samples.
Despite the rarity of the discovery, Culverwell believes it is unlikely to be the sole representative of this species in Finland.
This finding holds significant importance for Finland’s entomological records.
By expanding our knowledge of various mosquito species and their geographical distributions, we enhance our understanding of potential pathogen transmission.
By identifying the mosquitoes present in Finland, we can better assess the risk of them spreading diseases, such as viruses or parasites, to humans or animals.
No Immediate Threat of Infection
Culex modestus is known to transmit the West Nile virus, a flavivirus, in southern parts of Europe, primarily between birds and humans or birds and horses.
In humans, the West Nile virus typically results in mild infections with symptoms including fever, headache, and muscle pain.
In some cases, the virus may cause neurological disorders. However, it is crucial to note that West Nile virus has not been detected in Finland thus far.
Despite the discovery of Culex modestus in Finland, Culverwell reassures the public that there is no immediate cause for concern.
No instances of locally acquired infections in humans or horses have been reported.
Nevertheless, this discovery serves as a reminder to remain vigilant and knowledgeable about the mosquito species present in the country.
Understanding the diseases associated with these species worldwide allows us to investigate the likelihood of potential future infections.
Climate Change and the Need for Comprehensive Insect Research
Given the implications of a warming climate, there is an increased necessity for in-depth insect research.
Several mosquito species, including Culex pipiens and Culex modestus, serve as reservoirs for the West Nile virus in bird populations.
To transmit the virus to humans, a mosquito would need to first bite an infected bird, allow time for the virus to enter its saliva, and subsequently bite a human.
In some cases, the virus can be inherited by female mosquitoes from their eggs.
Culverwell emphasizes that the current circumstances make it highly improbable for the virus to transmit to humans or horses.
Firstly, there must be a presence of the West Nile virus in local or migratory birds in Finland.
While some limited screenings have been conducted, no virus has been reported thus far.
Secondly, only one specimen of Culex modestus has been found in Finland.
To facilitate transmission, a larger population of mosquitoes would be required to encounter infected birds and then survive long enough to bite humans or horses.
With more than 111,000 mosquito samples collected in Finland since 2012, Culverwell’s research highlights the need to investigate the short-term and long-term impacts of this discovery.
Determining the extent of Culex modestus’ presence in Finland and its potential population growth demands further exploration.
Future Preparations and Pathogen Risk Assessment
Building a strong foundation of mosquito research in Finland holds immense significance, particularly considering the impending effects of climate change.
As temperatures rise and winters become milder, the number of mosquito species is likely to fluctuate. While some species may diminish, the possibility of southern European species invading Finland increases.
These invasive mosquitoes could potentially transmit other disease-causing pathogens not yet found in Finland.
Maintaining active research will enable us to comprehend the distribution of pathogens and evaluate their actual or potential risks to human and animal health.
The groundbreaking study detailing this rare mosquito species discovery was published online in the Journal of the European Mosquito Control Association on June 25th, 2023.
The discovery of Culex modestus in Finland is significant because it adds to the growing body of knowledge about mosquito species in the country. Understanding the presence and distribution of mosquito species is crucial for assessing the potential risks of disease transmission to humans and animals.
While Culex modestus is known to transmit the West Nile virus in southern Europe, there is currently no immediate risk of disease transmission to humans in Finland. No cases of West Nile virus infections acquired in Finland have been reported. However, ongoing research and monitoring are important to stay informed about the potential for disease transmission in the future.
There is no need for immediate concern. The discovery of Culex modestus serves as a reminder to be aware of the mosquito species present in Finland. Although this species can transmit the West Nile virus, the necessary conditions for transmission, such as the presence of the virus in local birds and a larger population of mosquitoes, are currently lacking in Finland.
Climate change can have an impact on mosquito populations in Finland. As temperatures rise and winters become milder, it may create favorable conditions for the expansion of certain mosquito species. Some species from southern Europe, which are capable of transmitting other disease-causing pathogens, could potentially invade Finland. Research and monitoring are essential to understand the changing dynamics of mosquito populations and associated risks.
While the immediate risk of mosquito-borne diseases in Finland is low, it is always advisable to take precautions. Use mosquito repellents, especially during peak mosquito activity times, wear protective clothing that covers exposed skin, and avoid stagnant water sources where mosquitoes breed. These measures can help minimize the risk of mosquito bites and potential disease transmission.
Further research will involve studying both bird populations and mosquito populations in Finland. By monitoring local and migratory birds for the presence of the West Nile virus and conducting ongoing mosquito surveillance, researchers can better understand the short-term and long-term impacts of Culex modestus and assess the potential risks associated with its presence.
The long-term goal of mosquito research in Finland is to establish a comprehensive understanding of mosquito species and their associated pathogens. With climate change potentially affecting mosquito populations, it is crucial to identify any emerging risks and take proactive measures to protect human and animal health. Continued research will enable early detection and effective management strategies for potential mosquito-borne diseases.