App can tell you if a mosquito is about to give you malaria

AI trained to differentiate the whines of 3500 species of mosquitoes can use your cheap smartphone to tell you if that nearby mosquito will put you at risk of Zika, malaria and dengue fever

 

A mosquito bite can infect you with malaria, dengue or zika, diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. But how can you tell if the mosquitoes near you are dangerous? Well, now there’s an app for that.

Only 40 of the 3500 mosquito species bite humans. It would be nearly impossible to identify the dangerous kinds by sight alone: two species of mosquito may look identical, for example, but one prefers animals to humans. However, every species has a unique sound signature. They “sing” to identify each other in mixed-species mating swarms, says Marianne Sinka at Oxford.

To take advantage of this, teams at both Oxford and Stanford are using the surprisingly sensitive microphones on smartphones to record a mosquito’s whining wing beat and match it against a database of known examples for identification.

Oxford’s “MozzWear” Android app lets researchers use