Biologist Steve Presley has tested 250 mosquitos since June to find a host to the virus. He has less than a dozen tubes filled with dead and dried different mosquitos species. Then he drops the detergent solution in each tube. He adds copper beads to grind up the mosquitos. Now, Dr. Presley is able to find which mosquito species is carrying the West Nile virus in Lubbock County.
"Knowing all that information about the Vector Species, we could target the control efforts or the city and county could target control efforts when they spray for mosquitos. With the Vect Test kit, we can test them and in 15 minutes we'll know if they're positive or negative," said Dr. Presley.
Dr. Presley is a researcher at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health building at Reece Technology Center. That is also the place where researchers find preventative solutions for biological agent agents. Pinpointing the mosquito is study Dr. Presley is doing virtually alone. In face, he's the only one doing this kind of research on the South Plains.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 11 Texas counties have found infected mosquitos, rather than infected wild birds and horses. "I think we possibly have a positive. We'll have to wait a few minutes for the test to be complete. Then we'll look and see," he said.
It was just out of chance NewsChannel 11 witnessed the positive test result. In three months, Dr. Presley says it's his first detection of the West Nile in a specific mosquito. "So now that we have detected the virus in mosquitos we'll try to find more of it and where those mosquitos are breeding in this area," he said.
This test does not tell researches how many mosquitos in Lubbock county are carrying the West Nile virus. It just tells them which species, which is called Culex Tarsalis. Dr. Presley says that species is capable of transmitting the virus to humans. But health officials say any mosquito species can carry the virus. The mosquito sample will be sent to the State Health Department in Austin for confirmation.