Wolbachia-infected Mosquitoes

Scaled Deployment of Wolbachia-infected Mosquitoes to Block Disease Transmission

Organization: Eliminate Dengue Program, Monash University

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Problem: Dengue is estimated to threaten the health of almost 4 billion people living in tropical and subtropical regions of the world and Zika is currently exploding as an emerging global disease with major outbreaks underway throughout tropical South America.

Solution: Infect mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacteria proven to block the transmission of dengue fever and Zika virus from mosquitoes to humans. The approach provides a natural, sustainable, cost-effective new tool for preventing transmission of a range of arboviruses including Zika, dengue and chikungunya. The project, which has been proven to work over long-term field tests, will now be tested in much larger populations in several Latin American communities. This method represents a paradigm shift in arboviral disease control. It's an innovative, cutting edge technology that provides a sustainable, long-term intervention for communities affected by arboviral diseases. Compared with conventional insecticide-based or genetic population suppression control methods that may provide limited, short-term reductions in the mosquito population, once Wolbachia has established in the local population, it persists without the need for continual reapplication or additional insecticide--based control methods while reducing the risk of infection with dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses. In addition, residents are not required to change their behaviour or participate in ongoing activities after the mosquito releases are concluded. This research, which is the first of its kind in the world, could potentially benefit an estimated 2.5 billion people currently living in arboviral disease transmission areas worldwide.


Headshot of Scott O'Neill

Scott O’Neill – Professor

"The Eliminate Dengue Program comprises a team of highly committed and focused individuals working on a novel approach to control mosquito-transmitted diseases like dengue, chikungunya and Zika. The Eliminate Dengue Program grew from Scott O’Neill’s desire to pursue research that had immediate, concrete, beneficial global impact. He has studied Wolbachia for over 20 years, exploring what he saw as its potential to help control transmission of tropical diseases. Since Scott’s research team succeeded in transferring Wolbachia into Aedes aegypti in 2008, he has driven the Program forward, through testing and regulatory approval to community engagement and implementation. In the last 2 years, Scott and his team have seen the first evidence of that real-life impact he was working towards. We have deployed Wolbachia mosquitoes in sites in 5 countries – and in every location where Wolbachia has been established, local transmission of dengue has stopped. Our challenge now is to help other countries learn how to implement the Wolbachia method by working alongside them, giving them the tools they need to control dengue and Zika, for good."

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