Smart Trap Could Lower Spread of Zika, West Nile Mosquitoes


Traps help entomologists track mosquitoes that are carrying Zika or other harmful diseases.

Houston Public Media today reported on a “smart trap” by Microsoft that Harris County Mosquito Control has been testing since summer 2016.1 The traps will help entomologists to (1) track mosquitoes that are carrying Zika virus or other harmful diseases and (2) collect data for ongoing research.

With such warm and humid conditions, Houston is a favorite environment for all types of mosquito species, including ones that carry and spread the Zika virus and other diseases, such as West Nile virus. That makes it a good place for pilot-testing the trap, part of Project Premonition, which designs automated tasks to assist entomologists in their work.1

With 80% to 90% accuracy and growing, the smart trap has an infrared light beam that distinguishes between mosquito species and the trap’s doors close on the ones carrying a virus. “[With] the other traps … you could also find some other creatures or other organisms. The Microsoft trap is programmed to the wing span of the mosquitoes. We know exactly what the temperature was, what was the humidity [was], and what kind of mosquito was in the trap,” said Dr. Mustapha Debboun, with Harris County Public Health in an interview.2

Microsoft isn’t setting out to cure Zika or other mosquito-carried diseases, but rather to help detect them and to help prevent spread. Douglas Norris, professor of molecular biology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, explains: “[The trap] collects a lot of data that normally we don’t get. We can use that to figure out real-world solutions, like that bed nets might work.”1

This is just one of several efforts to detect and prevent Zika before it causes irreparable harm. Part of prevention, of course, is making sure that patients are educated about Zika. Clinicians and pharmacists have many opportunities to educate patients about the dangers of miscarriage and other birth defects that are known to result from the infection.


  • Linn A. Building a better mosquito trap: how a Microsoft research project could help track Zika’s spread. Microsoft News website. Published June 21, 2016. Accessed May 22, 2017.
  • Mayberry E. “Smart” mosquito trap used to prevent spread of Zika and West Nile Virus. Houston Public Media website. Published May 22, 2017. Accessed May 22, 2017.

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