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

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.