Brazil releases millions of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes to fight dengue

September 1, 2017

Scientists in Brazil have begun to release the first wave of millions of mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacteria to prevent them from spreading dengue.

Thousands of Aedesaegypti mosquitoes carrying the bacteria were released in front of journalists by scientists from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation(Fiocruz), a science & technology health institution attached to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, in Rio de Janeiro.

The hope is that the infected mosquitoes will then breed and spread the bacteria, denting the insect population’s ability to spread dengue and other viruses including Zika and chikungunya.

Scientists have been preparing the project – developed by Australians who first put the Wolbachia bacteria into mosquitoes – since last year.

Dengue causes fevers, rashes, nausea and in some cases can be fatal, while Zika has been blamed for serious birth defects.

In 2016, fears over Zika led to the United Nations (UN) health body to declare an international health emergency, ending in November.

Fiocruz plans to release 1.6 million infected mosquitoes a week, later stepping that up to three million.

The scientist found that when an Aedesaegypti mosquito is infected with Wolbachia, the bacteria then blocks or reduces the capacity of the mosquito to transmit viruses like dengue, chikungunya and Zika, explained Luciano Moreiro, head of the dengue programme at Fiocruz.

The idea is to release the infected mosquitoes so they can transmit the bacteria to other mosquitoes as if they were immunizing them and subsequently reduce transmission.

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Category: Education, Features

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