Considerations for Retention of Aedes Aegypti Colonies in the United States

Don W. MicksDepartment of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

Search for other papers by Don W. Micks in
Current site
Google Scholar
Restricted access


In summary, consideration has been given the matter of retaining laboratory colonies of Aedes aegypti in the United States in the face of a nation-wide eradication program. Principal emphasis has been placed on (1) assessing the possible danger of reintroduction of field populations from laboratory colonies and (2) safeguards which might be used in such laboratories to render them virtually escape-proof.

In the first instance, it has been pointed out that specimens of aegypti have escaped from a number of laboratory colonies simply because there has been no need to preclude such escapes. In spite of this and the fact that large numbers of adults have been released intentionally in various field studies, there is no evidence whatever that they have succeeded in establishing themselves in nature. In fact, substantial evidence is presented that new breeding foci do not result from laboratory escapees either in the northern or southern latitudes. This is all the more significant when one considers that there have been well over one hundred laboratories in at least forty states with colonies of aegypti, and that this species has been sent to countless individuals in high schools and in other facilities.

Thus, the extensive information at hand demonstrates that laboratory colonies of aegypti do not present a hazard to the eradication program. If and when evidence is brought forth to show conclusively that such colonies have led to the establishment of the species in nature, and thereby pose some threat to the eradication program, there are adequate safeguards which can be taken. These include limiting the laboratory use of aegypti for legitimate scientific purposes, the adoption of escape-proof methods of laboratory or insectary construction, and of rearing and testing. A system of licensing and inspection could also be established to regulate the maintenance and shipping of aegypti. This would include a surveillance program to check periodically for aegypti breeding within a half-mile radius of the colony location.

It is likely that two measures alone, namely, stopping the indiscriminate shipping of aegypti and secondly, switching to another species where this can be done, would virtually eliminate the theoretical hasard which laboratory use of the species might pose to the eradication program. Certainly, requiring the destruction of colonies maintained in areas where all the evidence available indicates that escapees from the colony could not become established in nature in that area would serve no purpose other than to impede studies using these important laboratory animals.