Biological Mosquito Munchers Vs. Argentina Dengue Fever

When was the last time someone offered you a free frog as a gift? Well if you're from the city of San Luis, Argentina you might be glad to be gifted with one of the small amphibians - you might even consider giving one a kiss for good luck.

With more than 20,000 cases of the dengue fever (also known as break bone fever) recorded in 2009 accounting for at least 5 deaths, people are looking to the frog to save them in their time of need. Dengue fever, like West Nile virus and Malaria is spread to humans primarily by mosquito bites.

That's where the frogs come in.

According to San Luis councillor Daniel Sousa - a single frog can eat approximately 15,000 mosquitos and other insects within one season. He's pitching the frog as a green solution to deal with the mosquito carriers spreading the disease across Argentina.

"What we want is biological control so the aero-toxins do not kill us. In the end we will not be killed by the dengue (fever) but we will actually be killed by the aero-toxins, we will be killed by the areosols, by the pesticides. So we have to begin to look for biological mechanisms and the frog is one of them," said Sousa. He's giving away frogs in the hopes that locals will adopt them and keep them in their gardens.

The frog adoption method to combat disease carrying mosquitos was originally suggested by Miguel Angel, a local farmer and has had a mixed reaction thus far; some reluctantly accept the frog while others are curiously amused by them.

Angel reasons that using a frog not only avoids the use of toxic chemicals and aerosols, but also results in less mosquitoes. The frogs eat the mosquitos and remove the threat whereas chemical protection merely causes the pests to find an unprotected person to bite. Yet another strike against the use of chemicals is that newer strains of the disease seem to be increasingly resistant to them.

Frogs were once plentiful in the area, but the population has been in decline due to a shift in the local ecological balance. Clear cutting of forest areas for agriculture has been a factor in both the rise of the Dengue Fever epidemic and the decline in the frog population.

While there is renewed optimism that frogs will help combat the spread of the fever, a local biologist from the Universidad Nacional de San Luis is cautioning that only indigenous frogs should be used in the area - otherwise a new ecological crisis could result.

If this experiment proves successful, perhaps more countries (like those affected by West Nile or Malaria) can also follow the example of using a biological solution rather than toxic chemicals.

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