As dengue deaths rise, is breeding ‘good’ Aedes a solution?

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR: After putting on hold the release of genetically modified mosquitoes because of environmental concerns, will the Health Ministry look at the latest research involving “vaccinated” mosquitoes to eliminate dengue fever?

A method involving the release of mosquitoes inoculated with a bacterium that blocks the development of the dengue virus is already being used in Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, and recently in Brazil, it was reported.

Malaysia, which has seen an increase in dengue cases by more than 200% since last year, has reportedly expressed interest in the new research but has not offered any firm commitment.

A trial of 10,000 “good mosquitoes” inoculated with the Wolbachia that block the dengue virus began in Brazil, AFP reported. These “good” Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are to reproduce with wild mosquitoes and create offspring that will no longer transmit the dengue virus.

Harmless to humans, the goal is for them to breed out the “bad” Aedes mosquitoes. They were released in the northern Rio neighbourhood of Tubiacanga recently as part of an innovative programme to curb the spread of the tropical disease.

If it works in Brazil, the country said to be the most affected by dengue since 2000, could finally have an answer to a disease that has infected seven million and killed 800 people.

Professor Scott O’Neill, who heads the international Eliminate Dengue Research Programme, last week said the Malaysian government had shown interest in the Wolbachia-inoculated mosquitoes. But there were no concrete plans to adopt the approach here, a newspaper reported him as saying.

“We have talked to the Malaysian government about our work, and they have shown some interest and even requested for extra information. So hopefully in the future we will be able to start our programme here,” the Australian scientist told the newspaper.

Colombia, he said, was the next country where the Wolbachia method will be tested. Within the next there years, he said, scientists should know how effective the approach was in controlling dengue. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 9, 2014.