Beating Dengue. Guess what, scientists are onto something big in the fight against deadly dengue fever! They’re playing a sneaky move by infecting girl mosquitoes with this bacteria called Wolbachia. The World Mosquito Program (WMP) thinks it’s a rad way to “treat” mosquitoes and stop them from spreading viruses.
So, dengue usually jumps from the bites of lady Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, mainly chilling in warm places. These mosquitoes came from African forests and spread all over during the slave trade. Now, they just tag along wherever humans go.
There are other Aedes types that can spread dengue, too. The Asian tiger mosquito is a bit of a troublemaker, probably causing dengue in Europe.
Stop Dengue with Germ Warfare
Beating Dengue. Dr. Clare Strode, a bug expert from Edge Hill University, spills the deets on what WMP is up to. They’re ditching chemicals and genetic tricks, going for a chill approach using Wolbachia. This bacteria is in lots of bugs but not in Aedes aegypti.
WMP found that giving Aedes aegypti a dose of Wolbachia stops them from getting dengue viruses when they grow up. It’s kind of like a self-spread thing, passing the bacteria down to their kids when they hook up.
“WMP has seen way fewer dengue cases when they let loose Aedes aegypti with Wolbachia. Since these mosquitoes also spread Zika and chikungunya, WMP came up with a ‘three-for-one’ plan to control these diseases,” Dr. Strode shared with BBC Science Focus on January 17, 2024.
This Wolbachia mosquito plan is all about targeting Aedes aegypti only. No collateral damage like with bug sprays that mess with other bugs.
Are Wolbachia Mosquitoes Safe for Us?
Chill vibes from Prof. Dr. Aryati at Universitas Airlangga’s Faculty of Medicine. She’s like, “Wolbachia is a natural bacteria hanging out in bugs like butterflies, flies, and bees.”
Aryati is sure that Wolbachia mosquitoes have the bacteria but can’t pass it on to humans.
“The bacteria doesn’t move. It’s just in the mosquitoes. If you get bitten, no need to freak out – the mosquito bacteria doesn’t rub off on humans,” she says.
So, lots of proof is piling up that Wolbachia mosquitoes are dropping dengue cases by a whopping 77.1%.
In the battle against mosquito diseases, this new move is looking pretty sweet. It’s a safe bet for a future with fewer folks catching dengue. Keep an eye out for these Wolbachia warriors!