Mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria and released into the wild are associated with a sharp decrease in dengue fever infections in humans, scientists reported [November 21] at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual meeting.
Cases of dengue, a mosquito-transmitted disease that causes fever, skin rash, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain, have gone down over the past few years in areas of Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, and Australia where the insects were released, reports the Associated Press.
Wolbachia bacteria infect many insect species in nature, but they usually aren’t found in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread dengue and other diseases. After mosquitoes are infected in the lab, the bacteria can be passed down through subsequent generations, and the microbes appear to block the transmission of the dengue virus from mosquitoes to humans. The mosquitoes are not genetically modified.
“The challenge for us is to go from where we are now to be able to do efficiently big cities—Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta, New Delhi, any of the big municipalities of Brazil. So that’s where we hope to be, protecting 100 million people by 2023,” Cameron Simmons, the director of impact assessment with the World Mosquito Program, tells STAT.
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