Zika virus: Mosquito trap created in Toronto could help fight outbreak

A new cheap and biodegradable mosquito trap invented in Toronto could be used to help slow the spread of the Zika virus around the globe.

'It sounds like it's a very good approach to controlling mosquito populations,' says infectious disease expert

Greenlid CEO Morgan Wyatt shows off his company's latest invention, a biodegradable mosquito trap that could have implications in the fight against the Zika virus outbreak. (CBC)

A new cheap and biodegradable mosquito trap invented in Toronto could be used to help slow the spread of the Zika virus around the globe. 

The trap was invented by Morgan and Jackson Wyatt, brothers from Brockville, Ont., who made waves on CBC's Dragon's Den last year with their biodegradable compost bins.

Their company, Greenlid, has been developing a mosquito trap over the last year and a half with the help of the government of Queensland, Australia, which is looking for a cheaper and less labour intensive alternative to mosquito population control. 
Greenlid's Adil Qawi says the company is in talks with various governments and NGOs about buying their biodegradable mosquito traps. (CBC)

The government there has placed its first order of 4,000 traps in an effort to eradicate dengue fever,  another mosquito-borne disease.

"With the onset of Zika being declared a global pandemic, it just became almost a no-brainer for us that we should also look at addressing the issues of that disease in the same method," Greenlid spokesman Adil Qawi told CBC News.

Just add water

The trap made from the same long-lasting, but ultimately biodegradable, material as the Greenlid compost bin, and is coated with a layer of insecticide.

To use it, all you have to do is add water. 

"After a mosquito has a blood meal, or comes and bites you and sucks your blood, it has an incredible urge to go lay eggs, Morgan Wyatt told CBC News. 
The Greenlid mosquito trap, left, is cheaper than the traditional plastic ovitrap, right, and is biodegradable. (CBC)

The species of mosquitoes most notorious for spreading diseases like Zika and dengue fever like to lay their eggs in free-standing water. 

"It will go and find our trap and then touch the insecticide and then end up dying," Wyatt said. 

It's a new twist on a lethal ovitrap, plastic contraptions that are used around the world to control mosquito populations. 

But the Greenlid traps are cheaper — they cost about $1-2 a pop — and unlike their plastic counterparts, don't have to be collected four to six weeks after they've been set out. 

'Novel approach'

Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at the Toronto General Hospital, says the devices have potential.

"It's certainly a novel approach and it sounds like it's a very good approach to controlling mosquito population," he said. 
Infectious disease expert Isaac Bogoch says there's a lot of potential in Greenlid's invention, but it's not a complete solution to the problem of mosquito-borne disease. (CBC)

"From a cost-savings and cost-effectiveness standpoint, they might be very versatile and could be widely employed, especially in countries that are low income, countries that just might not have the resources for mosquito control efforts."

But, he added, it's not likely to eradicate the spread of mosquito illnesses on its own.

"This would be just one arm of a multi-pronged approach to getting mosquito populations down," he said.

Going global

Greenlid is currently in talks with three other countries to roll out its mosquito trap and says a global organization could be stepping in as a partner in the next few weeks. 

"We're looking at various countries around South America and Asia. We're reaching out to government agencies, as well as NGOs," Qawi said. 

The mosquito-borne Zika virus is drawing global attention due to its rapid spread and its possible connection to a rare neurological birth defect called microcephaly. 

So far, there's no vaccine to prevent the Zika virus and no medication to treat it.

With files from Philippe de Montigny