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Ingenious 'Guardian Toad' device helps control populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes — here's how it works

This type of creative approach is more needed than ever.

This type of creative approach is more needed than ever.

Photo Credit: VML

Vector borne diseases — including diseases spread by insects — are on the rise in many parts of the world amid rising global temperatures. In Peru, several factors have combined to create an especially sharp rise in dengue fever — part of Latin America's worst outbreak on record, as NBC News noted, citing information from the Pan American Health Organization. 

Luckily, one company has come up with an ingenious invention to help curb the spread of the disease, Interesting Engineering reported.

Dengue fever, sometimes called "break-bone fever," is spread by mosquito bites. As part of the reproduction process, mosquitoes often lay their eggs in standing water. In areas of Peru, where 80% of the population currently lacks access to clean running water, according to IE, many people are forced to collect and store water in open containers, which inadvertently become perfect mosquito breeding grounds.

To combat this problem, insecticide brand Sapolio has commissioned design studio VML to create a small device called the "Guardian Toad" — a small plastic toad that, powered by a tiny solar cell, paddles around a water container, disrupting the surface of the water and preventing mosquitoes from laying their eggs, as IE detailed. VML and Sapolio hope the Guardian Toad can achieve a 92% protection rate against mosquito breeding.

The best part of the Guardian Toad is that, unlike insecticides, it thwarts mosquitoes with mechanical motion rather than toxic chemicals that carry downstream environmental consequences. This makes the Guardian Toad safe to use, and because it is powered by the sun, it's autonomous and self-sustaining. Also, crucially, it requires limited resources to cheaply operate. 

Other recent outside-the-box solutions for the dengue fever crisis have included a biotech company releasing swarms of genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil to kill the mosquitoes that are spreading the virus. While this might sound like an extreme action, as with the Guardian Toad, it has the benefit of requiring no toxic chemical spraying.

At a time when the habitat ranges for mosquitoes are expanding due to rising temperatures, these types of creative approaches to protecting people from the diseases they spread are more needed than ever.

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