An ultra-safe insect bug house has just opened in Antwerp

“It is the next step in addressing the global health challenges caused by vector-borne diseases,” reports ITM. Vector-borne diseases are infectious diseases caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses, which are transmitted from animals to humans by vectors of infected arthropods.

The new Insects unit is part of a high-security “virology lab” led by Professor Kevin Arryn. His team will study the interaction between arthropod viruses, viruses transmitted by arthropods, and mosquitoes that transmit these viruses to humans.

“This research is important for a better understanding of dengue, Zika and West Nile fever,” says Professor Ruth Müller, Head of the Department of Entomology. “Thanks to the new unit, we can carry out studies on mosquito infection. For successful vector surveillance, prevention and control, it is important to understand how vectors can transmit disease.”

The new unit from Insect is a so-called Arthropod Containment Level 3 (ACL-3) laboratory that has several safety features. “Access is very limited,” says ITM. “Only trained personnel can enter the room through the double-locking doors and air shower. Moreover, the insect repellent is airtight, gas-tight, and leak-proof.”

In other words, the airflow in the laboratory is a one-way street and negative pressure is maintained to prevent pathogens from escaping. In entomology, researchers also have special insect growth chambers and “biosecurity tanks” to safely manage infected vectors.

One of the first projects that ITM will undertake in the new insects is the CLIMB project. This project studies the relationship between the Asian tiger mosquito, yellow fever mosquito, dengue virus, and the environment. The researchers will travel to Nepal in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas, one of the fastest warming regions in the world, where outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases regularly occur.

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