NOEL KING, HOST:
All right, now we have some news of an unwelcome scientific discovery. Researchers have identified a new species of mosquito in Florida. It's known to carry several diseases, including yellow fever. Here's NPR's Greg Allen.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The life of a mosquito researcher isn't a glamorous one, but Lawrence Reeves likes it.
LAWRENCE REEVES: Yeah. I think it's really cool. I'm a big nerd for this stuff.
LINDSAY CAMPBELL: (Laughter).
REEVES: So it's really easy to collect mosquitoes.
ALLEN: Reeves is a research scientist with the University of Florida. And his collaborator is entomologist Lindsay Campbell. One way you collect mosquitoes is with a vacuum.
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ALLEN: In a video he recorded, Reeves traipses through undergrowth.
REEVES: It's kind of like "Ghostbusters." You go around in the field sucking up mosquitoes with these vacuums. And then you end up with a bag of hundreds or thousands of mosquitoes that you have to sift through to identify.
ALLEN: Sifting through mosquitoes collected near Everglades National Park, Reeves spotted some that he hadn't seen before. Examining them under a microscope and then analyzing their DNA, he realized they were a species new to Florida, one called Aedes scapularis. Up to now, they've been found mostly in the Caribbean and Latin America. In Brazil, Reeves says, the mosquitoes have been found to be infected with a range of diseases.
REEVES: Things like Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, yellow fever virus and a handful of others.
ALLEN: It's been more than a century since there was a yellow fever outbreak in the U.S. And although they're infected, it's not clear if Aedes scapularis mosquitoes spread the diseases. But as outbreaks of Zika and dengue have shown in Florida, new mosquitoes can bring new diseases. The species is already established here, and a study suggests it may spread north along Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
And there are other things about Aedes scapularis that are worrisome. It's a mosquito that likes going indoors and feeds on both wildlife and people. Campbell says that's not good.
CAMPBELL: If you end up with a species that's capable of transmitting to bats and likes to also bite humans, that's the prime condition for a spillover event.
ALLEN: Scientists believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a result of such a spillover event involving bats or another animal species. Climate change, international travel and global trade are also factors. Ten new species of non-native mosquitoes have been found in Florida since 2000. And Reeves says more are on the way.
REEVES: There's one in particular right now that a lot of people are worrying about, Aedes vittatus, which is kind of an old-world vector for pretty much everything that we're worried about - dengue, chikungunya, Zika.
ALLEN: Originally from India, Aedes vittatus mosquitoes have now been found in Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this report, Lindsay Campbell says, "If you end up with a species that's capable of transmitting to bats and likes to also bite humans, that's the prime condition for a spillover event." Campbell misspoke and meant to say birds. Mosquito-borne diseases are not known to be transmitted between bats and people.]
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