Bacteria-borne mosquitoes make Australian city dengue-free

Bacteria-borne mosquitoes in Australia have bred with local mosquitoes to free an entire city from dengue

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Dengue mosquito
Researchers in Australia have released special bacteria borne mosquitoes to breed with local mosquitoes

Captive-bred mosquitoes carrying a naturally occurring bacteria were released in the city of Townsville, Australia where they mated with local mosquitoes.

The bacteria, Wolbachia, hinders dengue transmission as a result, the city has been dengue-free since 2014.

The researchers from Monash University also believe that their work could stop mosquito-borne diseases Zika and malaria.

“Nothing is slowing these diseases down – they are getting worse. What we have now is going to have a significant impact and I think this study is the first indication that its looking promising,” said Scott O’Neill, Director of the World Mosquito Programme.

Over four monsoon seasons, researchers released the Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes across 66km sq (25sq miles) in the Queensland tropical town with a population of 187,000.

The community readily embraced the project with even school children releasing the special mosquitoes.

“At a cost of around A$15 per person, the Townsville trial demonstrates that this solution can be rolled out quickly, efficiently and cost effectively to help provide communities protection from mosquito-borne diseases,” Professor O’Neill said.

The programme is currently working in 11 countries and aims to deploy the Wolbachia mosquitoes in larger and poorer parts around the world with a target of reducing the cost to just USD1 per person.

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