Over three million 'tweaked' mosquitoes to be released in Johor as part pilot project to tackle dengue

JOHOR BAHRU: More than three million eggs of the aedes mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia strain will be released in a pilot project, to combat aedes mosquitoes, in the People's Housing Project (PPR) in Kempas here in an effort by the state government to reduce the number of dengue cases in Johor.

State Health and Unity Committee chairman Ling Tian Soon said the pilot project, which would take more than two years, will be monitored by the Johor Health Department and Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB) to see the effectiveness of the project.

He said with the release of these aedes mosquito eggs, the male and female aedes Wolbachia mosquitoes would mate with aedes wild mosquito species, resulting in an increase in the population of the aedes Wolbachia mosquitoes thus curtailing the spread of the dengue virus.

It has been discovered that when aedes mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, viruses such as dengue, zika, chikungunya and yellow fever, find it harder to reproduce inside the mosquitoes.

And the mosquitoes are much less likely to spread viruses from person to person.

"This project was proven successful when it had been implemented in Penang and Selangor, seeing a 40% decrease in dengue cases in these states.

"The Kempas PPR was chosen because it is a dengue hotspot in Johor Bahru, apart from other areas in the city that have also reported a high number of cases," he told reporters after the launching ceremony of the project at the Kempas PPR here on Wednesday (May 18).

Currently, he said, for every 14 series of aedes mosquito eggs released, it involved 222,500 eggs with an estimated cost of 45 sen per egg.

"We will do a study first, (after that) we will propose this aedes Wolbachia mosquito project to be implemented in dengue hotspot areas," said Ling.

Also present at the event was Johor Health Department director Datuk Dr Aman Rabu.

From Jan 1 to May 14 this year, the cumulative number of dengue cases saw a decrease of 41.2 per cent to 566 cases compared to 963 cases for the same period last year.

However, for the 19th epidemiological week (ME19) this year, there were 57 dengue cases reported compared to 31 cases in ME18 this year, with the Johor Bahru district recording the highest number of cases at 22. - Bernama

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