Thanks to this groundbreaking trial with mosquito manipulation, the cases of dengue fever have been reduced by 77 percent.
The scientists used mosquitoes that were infected with ‘miraculous’ bacteria that lowers the ability of the insects to spread dengue.
The trial which took place in Yogyakarta city in Indonesia is being expanded in hopes of offering the solution for the eradication of this virus.
Could This Be the End of Dengue Fever?
According to the World Mosquito Program team, this hack could be the key to a virus which has spread worldwide.
50 years ago, few people had heard of dengue; however, it’s turned into a slow-burning pandemic and the cases of infected with dengue fever has dramatically increased.
In the 70s, only nine countries had dengue outbreaks whereas today, there are around 400 million infections yearly. Dengue, known as the ‘break-bone fever’, causes major muscle and bone pain and the explosive outbreaks may overcrowd hospitals.
What Did the Researchers Do?
For the purposes of the trial, the scientists used mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria. Dr. Katie Anders, one of the researchers, says they’re ‘naturally miraculous’.
This bacteria doesn’t cause any harm to the mosquitoes, but it camps out in the same parts of the body which the virus needs to enter into.
This bacteria competes for resources and makes it harder for the dengue fever to replicate and thus, the mosquito is less likely to trigger an infection upon another bite.
Interestingly, this trial used five million eggs of mosquitoes infected with the above-mentioned bacteria. The eggs were put in buckets of water in the city every two weeks and the process of creating an infection mosquito population lasted nine months.
Then, they divided Yogyakarta into 24 zones and they released the mosquitoes in only 12 of these zones.
According to the results they published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there was 77 percent reduction in the cases as well as 86 percent reduction in individuals who were in need of hospitalization when the insects were released.
For Dr. Anders, these findings are very exciting and much better than what they hoped for.
These Are Groundbreaking Results, Say the Scientists
This technique proved so successful that the scientists have released the mosquitoes throughout the city and they’ll also move the project to the surrounding areas in hopes to eradicate dengue.
For Dr. Anders who’s also a director of the impact assessment at the World Mosquito Program, this technique may have an even bigger impact when they deploy it at larger cities worldwide where dengue is a major health concern.
What Kind of Bacteria Are the Wolbachia?
Wolbachia are manipulative and able to change their hosts’ fertility to ensure they can be passed onto the next mosquito generation.
Namely, once it establishes, it may stay around for a long period of time and keep providing protection from dengue infections.
This method is more promising than other methods of long-term control of dengue disease, such as using insecticides or releasing a large number of sterile male mosquitoes.