Wan Azizah: Govt to combat dengue with Wolbachia bacteria in Aedes mozzies

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will fight the scourge of the dengue epidemic by injecting Aedes Aegypti mosquitos with the Wolbachia bacteria in 10 different localities across the nation beginning July, says Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

The 10 localities consist of eight in Selangor and two in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Wan Azizah, who chaired a federal-level meeting of the dengue task force, said that the decision was made following the success of a pilot programme in 2017, where 4 million Wolbachia-infected mosquitos were released in five localities.

According to Dr Wan Azizah, the proposed method is an innovation in addressing the rise in dengue cases, where Wolbachia bacterias will be injected into the Aedes Aegypti larvae.

“The Wolbachia-infected mosquitos will stunt the growth of the dengue virus in mosquitoes, hence stopping the spread of the dengue virus,” Dr Wan Azizah said during a press conference in Parliament on Tuesday (April 2).

“Through this technique, the task force is targeting a drop of between 60% to 70% in dengue cases in the localities involved in this programme, which will decrease the rate of death caused by dengue,” she added.

Aside from using the Wolbachia bacteria in the war against the dengue epidemic, Dr Wan Azizah said that the task force have agreed to study the potential use of Artificial Intelligence to predict dengue hotspots, in order to carry out preventive and control measures.

She said that artificial intelligence is an important tool to analyse crucial factors in predicting the spread of dengue, such as wind speed, moisture and rainfall.

“It’s time for us to conduct predictions to stop the spread of the dengue epidemic, and not just respond for the purpose of controlling the spread of the epidemic.”

According to Dr Wan Azizah, the meeting by the dengue task force was called to address the rise in dengue cases, as she pointed out that figures for dengue fever and deaths increased at 146.3% and 84.4% respectively.

She said that from January to March 30 this year, as many as 36,285 cases were reported, compared with 14,734 cases in the same period last year.

For deaths caused by dengue, the figures stood at 59 nationwide, compared with 32 deaths in the same period last year, she said.

The meeting was attended by 10 members of the task force, which comprised of representatives from the Health Ministry, Home Ministry, Education Ministry, Housing and Local Government Ministry, Communications and Multimedia Ministry, Human Resource Ministry, Works Ministry, and among others.

According to Dr Wan Azizah, among the factors that contributed to the rise in dengue cases are poor hygiene and the illegal dumping of waste.

“Aedes mosquitos are very efficient, because it could pass down the virus to its larvae for five generations.

“Besides that, Aedes mosquitoes are more active in infecting and reproducing during hot weather. Its larvae can survive between six to nine months without water,” she said.

“We hope that the move by the national-level dengue task force will show an impact towards the decrease in dengue cases,” she added.

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