REFERRING to the letter “Points of release not an issue at all” (The Star, March 23), the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) would like to respond to the issues raised.
Aedes aegypti is medically important as the primary vector of arboviruses such as Chikungunya, Zika, Yellow Fever and in particular dengue. Wolbachia-infected Aedes mosquitoes are increasingly being used to control dengue. Several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Columbia and Vietnam, have already released Aedes infected with different strains of Wolbachia using the wMel strain. Thailand and China are using the wMel-Pop strain. The wMel-Pop strain is a good dengue blocker but it was found to cause high mortality among adult Aedes mosquitoes.
A study by Ross et al on heat tolerance of three strains of Wolbachia, namely wMel, wAlbB and wMel-Pop-CLA, found that only the wAlbB strain was heat tolerant and able to transmit from mother to offspring with high reliability at 26° to 37°C.
Malaysia (IMR) will be using the wAlbB strain, and it was reported that Singapore is using a similar strain. The IMR is collaborating with Prof Ary Hoffman who is affiliated with the University of Melbourne.
The Health Ministry’s approach is to target both the vector species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. We plan to release Aedes aegypti first and subsequently Aedes albopictus.
DATUK DR FADZILAH KAMALUDIN
Institute for Medical Research