Modified mosquitoes successfully eliminated the deadly dengue fever in a city in Australia for the last four years.
The experiment began in 2014, where mosquitoes specially bred to carry naturally-occurring Wolbachia bacteria, which prevents the insects from spreading the virus.
‘Modified mosquitoes specially bred to carry naturally-occurring Wolbachia bacteria successfully wiped out deadly dengue fever in Townsville, Australia for the last four years.’
Over two years, nearly four million of the midge-like pests were released across 66 square kilometres of Townsville
, Queensland in areas where they could easily breed.
The Queensland city which has around 167,800 residents has recorded no cases of locally-transmitted dengue in the four years after the modified mosquitoes were released
, compared to 54 cases in the previous four years.
These anti-dengue mosquitoes
then mated with wild species, causing them to pass on Wolbachia, so their offspring also carried the bacteria.
"We want to have a really major impact on disease. For dengue
and Zika nothing's working at the moment for control. There's evidence of a growing disease burden, and there was the big Zika pandemic that stripped through the Americas recently and the rest of the world," said Scott O'Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program at Monash University in Australia.
The technique used is looking very promising and might have a significant impact, said O'Neill.
Scientists are now conducting a randomized controlled trial in Indonesia. Similarly, in Brazil, mosquitoes have been introduced in Rio de Janeiro, with the new hope to tackle Zika virus outbreaks.
The land stretch covered in Rio de Janeiro is double that of Townsville, and the population is around six times as high which includes more than 1.5 million people.
"Rio is one of the hardest places to work in. If we can be successful in Rio we can probably be successful anywhere in the world," said O'Neill.
The programme is currently going on in 11 countries across the world. New studies hope to test it in other countries where a large number of dengue cases have been reported.
Eventually, if Wolbachia does prove safe and effective, scientists may attempt its use against malaria.