Army of ‘good’ mosquitoes deployed to combat dengue


Fighting back: Resident Heti Varyani hanging a bucket containing Wolbachia mosquito eggs outside her house in Yogyakarta. — Reuters

Researchers in the country have found a way to fight disease-bearing mosquitoes by breeding a species of the insect which carries a kind of bacteria that prevents viruses like dengue from growing inside them.

Wolbachia is a common bacteria that occurs naturally in 60% of insect species. It is not, however, found in dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, according to the non-profit World Mosquito Programme (WMP), which initiated the research.

“In principle we are breeding the ‘good’ mosquitoes,” said Purwanti, a WMP community cadre.

“The mosquitoes carrying dengue will mate with mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia, which will produce Wolbachia mosquitoes – the ‘good’ mosquitoes. So even if they bite people, it won’t affect them.”

Since 2017, a joint study has been releasing lab-bred Wolbachia mosquitoes across a few dengue fever “red zones” in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

The trial results, published by the New England Journal of Medicine in June, showed that deploying mosquitoes with Wolbachia reduced dengue cases by as much as 77% and hospitalisations by up to 86%.

According to the World Health Organisation, global dengue infections have risen rapidly in recent decades.

An estimated 100 to 400 million infections are reported every year. — Reuters

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