PETALING JAYA: The staggering 2,000 weekly cases of dengue has led the Government to step up the use of biological agent Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) to tackle the problem.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said this was the first time BTI was being used in a large-scale campaign against a dengue epidemic.
“Instead of using just insecticide to kill the (adult) Aedes, we are now also fogging with a biological agent,” said Dr Subramaniam when visiting the Mentari Court apartments here yesterday.
BTI is a bacterium found naturally in soils, and has been used worldwide as a biological control agent to combat mosquitoes and black flies since 1982.
During the spore-forming stage of its life cycle, the bacterium produces a protein crystal which is toxic only to mosquito and black fly larvae.
These protein crystals will be lodged in the larvae’s digestive system when they are feeding.
When the crystals dissolve, they will liberate toxic protein molecules that start to attack the larvae’s stomach lining, causing the creature to die within days.
Dr Subramaniam said that previously, BTI, which is not harmful to mammals, was only dispersed manually in limited areas.
Urging the public not to be alarmed by what appears to be a powdery substance, he said BTI was effective for one month.
Besides BTI, the Government is also spraying temephos, a chemical to kill larvae along with mosquito traps to nab the adults.
“I hope the new measures being taken will give us the results, and by one month we will be able to know whether it works,” he said.
Health Ministry Vector-Borne Disease Sector assistant director-general Topek Omar said the ministry was scrambling to increase its stockpile of BTI so it could be used nationwide.
“Our present stock of BTI can only last for two months,” said Topek, who added that locally sourced BTI cost RM400 per kilo.
He said BTI application would differ from conventional fogging, as BTI was applied to very specific areas like places with stagnant water that was difficult or impossible to be removed.
Mentari Court, which has six blocks of apartments, will require 500gm of BTI.