Researchers in Indonesia have found a way to fight disease-bearing mosquitoes by breeding a species of the insect which carries a kind of bacteria that prevents viruses like dengue from growing inside them.
Wolbachia is a common bacteria that occurs naturally in 60% of insect species, including some mosquitoes, fruit flies, moths, dragonflies and butterflies. It is not, however, found in dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, according to non-profit World Mosquito Program (WMP), which initiated the research.
"In principle we are breeding the 'good' mosquitoes," said Purwanti, a WMP researcher. "The mosquitoes carrying dengue will mate with mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia, which will produce Wolbachia mosquitoes - the 'good' mosquitoes. So even if they bite people, it won't affect them".
Since 2017, a joint study conducted by WMP at Australia's Monash University and Indonesia's Gadjah Mada University has been releasing lab-bred Wolbachia mosquitoes across a few dengue fever 'red zones' in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.
The trial results, published by the New England Journal of Medicine in June, showed that deploying mosquitoes with Wolbachia reduced dengue cases by as much as 77% and hospitalisations by up to 86%.