London, May 26 : An Asian breed of mosquito capable of carrying the risk of a potentially fatal disease that can be passed from one person to another is poised to invade Britain.
In northern Italy, the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has already established itself - transmitting chikungunya fever to scores of people.
The insect has also been found in a dozen other European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands.
Scientists at the Government's Health Protection Agency (HPA) at Porton Down in Wiltshire found that the UK climate is suitable for the mosquito to breed.
And the finding has left health experts concerned that Britain could be the next country to be invaded.
The Asian tiger mosquito has spread rapidly around the world due to the international trade in used car tyres, which carry the mosquito's eggs in trapped water inside the rim of the tyre.
But, the popularity of lucky bamboo, a Chinese houseplant that is transported in water-filled pots, has also spread the insect through ports such as Rotterdam.
Scientists found that 'widespread establishment' of the Asian tiger mosquito across England and Wales is possible in the warm, damp conditions of the British summer, which would increase the risk of chikungunya fever spreading among the local population.
"The mosquito has popped up across Europe and although we haven't found it yet in the UK, we have identified the potential for it to come here," The Independent quoted a spokesman of the HPA's Porton Down laboratories, as saying.
During the study, researchers found that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of British people returning from South-east Asia with chikungunya virus over recent years and if the tiger mosquito becomes established here it could create a locally spread epidemic.
People who have chikungunya develop a fever that lasts a couple of days but they go on to suffer intense headaches, joint pains and insomnia for days or weeks after they are bitten.
The female mosquito can feed on human blood and is known for her quick, penetrating bite and the fact that she feeds throughout the day, and not just in the evening like many other mosquitoes.
It is also known to transmit dengue fever and can carry about 20 other viral diseases.