Finally some good news!
Australian and Indonesian scientists have been conducting trials on a technique they believe has the potential to eradicate the deadly dengue virus in its strongholds in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world including Australia. Cases in Australia are usually restricted to the Top End and Northern parts of Queensland, although with the changing climate and an expected La Niña this summer, the virus has the potential to spread further south.
Cases of disease caused by the virus have been steadily on the rise in recent decades, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The worldwide incidence of dengue fever has increased over the last decade, from 2.4 million cases in 2010 to 4.2 million in 2019. Around half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease in the future, the organisation says. and 2019 recorded the highest number of cases to date.
The scientists have been injecting the Aedes aegypti mosquito – the main species responsible for transmitting dengue to humans – with a natural bacterium called Wolbachia, which hinders the insect’s ability to transmit viruses including dengue without suppressing mosquito populations and potentially affecting ecosystems.
Researchers from Australia’s Monash University involved in the World Mosquito Programme (WMP) and counterparts at their Indonesian partners, the Tahija Foundation and Gadjah Mada University, have been infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia for the past three years, and in August released the results of a trial carried out in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.
- The trial that involved mosquitoes with an inhibited ability to transmit viruses saw dengue cases drop 77 per cent after two years
- The World Mosquito Programme says the method has great potential for cities across Asia and Latin America and aims to reach 75 million people in five years.
Despite concerns from residents about releasing mosquitoes into the environment near urban centres these results are encouraging and hopefully will see dengue numbers drop further in future.