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The UCF College of Medicine was announced a Grand Challenges Explorations winner on Nov. 17, receiving a grant for $100,000.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GCE grant — which is the third-received in UCF history — will be used by Bradley Willenberg, an assistant scientist at the college, to pursue the global health and development research project, “New Unpowered Attract-Diagnose-Kill Surveillance Traps,” according to a press release.

“Willenberg’s mosquito surveillance tool attracts the insects, diagnoses those carrying disease and turns them a different color as a warning system to residents in at-risk areas throughout the world,” the release states. “The trap would exude an odorous blend that is especially attractive to specific species of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“Once inside the trap, the mosquito will encounter a wick-based device Willenberg helped invent that is soaked with a red-colored sugar water that mosquitoes love to consume.”

As the mosquito feeds, its enlarging stomach would turn from red to blue if it carries the disease, and the insecticide in the solution would kill the insect within minutes.

By looking in the trap, residents of at-risk areas would be able know if their community has disease-carrying species — without having to send the dead insects to a lab for analysis, the release states.

“This project is a powerful example of what can happen when scientists from multiple disciplines come together,” said Wendy Sarubbi, the assistant vice president of communications and marketing for the College of Medicine.

As the GCE grant aims to fund individuals worldwide to solve persistent global health and development challenges, it is helping Willenberg and UCF’s College of Medicine continue to explore ideas.

“The College of Medicine is honored to receive this support from the Gates Foundation,” Sarubbi said. “Dr. Willenberg’s collaborative research could improve the health and wellness of people across the world — which is our mission.”

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Rachel Stuart is a News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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