Resistant mosquitoes may fly in to fight dengue in Australia

Jun 16, 2014

Australian scientists said Monday they want to fight dengue fever—which is spread by mosquito bites—by releasing more of the buzzing, flying insects into the environment.

The mosquitoes released would be resistant to and expected to quickly infiltrate the in the Queensland city of Townsville and stop the spread of the disease.

Small-scale trials have already been conducted in communities in northern Australia, but coastal Townsville, with its population of 189,000, would be the first time an entire city had been targeted.

Professor Scott O'Neill from Monash University, who will meet with the Townsville community on Monday, said he hoped to begin the city-wide trial by the end of the year if given support.

"This will be the first-large scale trial of our method and we are committed to being open and responsive with the Townsville community about our research," he said.

In the trials, mosquitoes infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia were introduced in small numbers to communities in northern Australia.

Research has shown that Wolbachia prevents mosquitoes from transmitting dengue. The idea is that over time the Wolbachia breed out the dengue-carrying ones.

"The science has been very good and it's looking very promising," O'Neill told ABC Radio.

If the Townsville model is successful, O'Neill hopes the method could be used around the globe to combat the disease, which the World Health Organisation estimates may be infecting up to 50-100 million people each year.

"We could have a very sizeable impact on around the world and hopefully one day contribute significantly to eliminating it," O'Neill told the ABC.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne infection found in tropical and sub-tropical regions. There is no vaccine, so prevention focuses on mosquito control.

"We've just had an outbreak in northern Queensland of over 170 dengue cases—which is small on a global scale—but still 170 cases too many," said Gary Eddiehausen, who is chair of the Townsville community group looking at the plan.

"We now have an opportunity in Townsville to consider how we may be able to assist in reducing possible future dengue outbreaks in our own backyards—and being part of something that reaches so much further."

Dengue is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can pick up the virus from an infected human and transmit it to the next person it bites.

Explore further: Investigators insert large DNA sequence into mammalian cells

Related Stories

Brazil to breed GM mosquitoes to combat dengue

Jul 10, 2012

Brazil said Monday it will breed huge numbers of genetically modified mosquitoes to help stop the spread of dengue fever, an illness that has already struck nearly 500,000 people this year nationwide.

Dengue-resistant mosquitoes to be released next year

Oct 10, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Every year, dengue fever infects up to 100 million people and kills more than 20,000 of them. In an effort to reduce these numbers, scientists have infected mosquitoes with bacteria that makes ...

Scientists closing the zap on dengue fever

Jan 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A mosquito-borne virus that each year harms up to 100 million people and kills more than 20,000 is a step closer to being controlled after a breakthrough by Queensland scientists.

Novel control of Dengue fever

Aug 24, 2011

The spread of Dengue fever in northern Australia may be controlled by a bacterium that infects mosquitoes that harbor the virus, Australian and U.S. researchers report Aug. 25 in two papers published in the journal Nature.

Recommended for you

Investigators insert large DNA sequence into mammalian cells

12 hours ago

For the first time, researchers have used a simplified technique derived from a defense mechanism evolved by bacteria and other single-celled organisms to successfully insert a large DNA sequence into a predetermined genomic ...

Can gene editing provide a solution to global hunger?

22 hours ago

According to the World Food Program, some 795 million people – one in nine people on earth – don't have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That will only get worse with the next global food cris ...

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.