Queensland Tropical Health Alliance researcher helps reduce global burden of dengue fever.

Leading scientific journal Nature has today published two papers describing the results of biological control field trials where wild mosquito populations were manipulated to suppress dengue virus transmission.

Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA) researcher Professor Scott Ritchie (James Cook University, Cairns) is one of the primary investigators in Australia and co-author on the published papers.

The results are the work of the Eliminate Dengue program, an international collaboration of scientists led by Professor Scott O'Neill from Monash University, Melbourne. The program is developing a new approach to reduce the global burden of dengue fever.

The World Health Organisation ranks dengue fever as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world, with an estimated 2.5 billion people living in dengue transmission areas and more than 50 million cases annually.

The Eliminate Dengue program team hopes to develop a new control method that could provide a practical, sustainable and cost effective approach to dengue suppression around the world.

The program's unique method is Wolbachia, a natural bacterium already present in up to 70 percent of all insect species and known to reduce mosquito susceptibility to dengue and other viruses. The program team successfully introduced Wolbachia into wild populations of the mosquito that transmits dengue, Aedes aegypti, as a way to reduce the ability of these mosquitoes to transmit the virus between people.

In January this year, with overwhelming support from the community and regulatory approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia were released in the Cairns suburbs of Yorkeys Knob and Gordonvale, in Queensland, Australia. Within a 3-month period Wolbachia had successfully invaded the local mosquito populations.

"Years of laboratory experiments had shown that we could introduce Wolbachia into the mosquito in the lab, where it then passed from one generation to the next in the mosquito egg. The papers published today describe: the successful establishment of a particularly promising Wolbachia strain within the dengue mosquito in the lab; its subsequent ability to reduce dengue transmission potential of the mosquito; and also the successful introduction of the same Wolbachia strain into wild mosquito populations in Australia." said Professor O'Neill.

Download media release

web design by precedence