Growing guppy fish to fight chikungunya vector
UN/DICYT Guppy fish reared at UNal-Palmira fish tanks between three to five centimetres long are now an economic and effective alternative for attacking the chikungunya causing mosquito in the city of Cali, Province of Valle del Cauca.
This technique was used seven years ago by UNal Zootechnician and Animal Science PhD José Ader Gómez to biologically control Aedes Aegypti mosquitos, the dengue fever transmitting vector.
However, being this mosquito the same vector as for chikungunya, UNal and the Red de Salud de Laderas of Cali (Hillside Health Network of Cali) have joined efforts to “plant” these fish in drainage ditches, rainwater channels and lakes of the Universidad del Valle, the Pichincha military battalion and water reservoirs of the rural settlement of Villacarmelo.
Guppy fish, scientifically known as Poecilia Reticulata, were collected from the Bolo River near Palmira. According to the Red de Salud de Laderas of Cali since 2014 they began introducing these fish in stagnant water reservoirs in order to control the aforementioned vector.
“Fishes do not only eat larvae but also help control pests like the common mosquito, thus helping biologically controlling diseases and the amount of mosquitos without using expensive chemicals which harm the environment,” said Professor Gómez.
The idea came from watching a TV program on the Discovery Channel. The program showed how they used mosquito-eating fish in New Orleans (LA) to control dengue and yellow fever transmitting mosquitos as a consequence of the Hurricane Katrina floods of 2005.
Although using guppy fish is effective, Professor Gómez says that other control measures such as fumigating should not be overlooked. “Some larvae reproduce and should be sprayed, therefore the work is comprehensive. This biological control helps to reduce these fumigating efforts, lessening the environmental impact,” he said.
According to Harold Suárez of the Office of the Health Secretary of Cali, during this year they have recorded 17,042 cases of chikungunya in Cali in patients between 20 and 54 years of age.
Use of fish for biological control has been also implemented in Brazil and Peru as well as other cities in Colombia.