AI learns to recognize the species of mosquitoes spread

Researchers gathered 1,500 images of mosquitoes – both crushed and not – for AI training. Their goal is to build a smartphone app that can track the insect.


July 25, 2022

crushed dead mosquito

AI may be able to recognize a mosquito’s species even if it’s been swatted


Artificial intelligence trained to recognize live and dead mosquitoes can help track the three species most responsible for transmitting mosquito-borne diseases.

Mosquitoes kill more people than any other animal because they can transmit diseases like dengue, malaria and Zika virus. Using AI to automatically identify different mosquito species can make it easier to track their presence around the world – but this AI needs a lot of mosquito images to learn.

Song-Quan Ong of the Malaysia Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation and his colleague recruited three volunteers to help them create images of yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti), Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) and southern domestic mosquitoes (Culex quinquefasciatus). The researchers took two pictures of each mosquito that landed on the volunteers’ hands: one right after landing and one after sneezing.

Some mosquitoes bit the volunteers before they were crushed, but others were killed before they had the chance. “Our goal is to create images similar to real life,” says Ong.

In total, the researchers took 1,500 images, half of live mosquitoes and half of those that were spread.

The team then used this dataset to train two different AIs to recognize mosquitoes on human skin. The best performing AI could guess the correct species about 80% of the time. Eventually, this AI could end up powering a smartphone app that people can use to identify the mosquitoes they encounter and help researchers track the insect.

There have also been other efforts to automatically identify mosquitoes. A research group previously trained an AI to classify mosquitoes according to sex, gender, species and strain among 15 species from around the world. Another team trained an AI to identify 67 different species of mosquitoes. Each built its own dataset that could, in theory, be combined with the latest.

“The more images of mosquitoes that are available, the better,” says Jannelle Couret of the University of Rhode Island.

Newspaper reference: scientific dataDOI: 10.1038/s41597-022-01541-w

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