Scientists are trying to develop a revolutionary technique to infect viruses spreading mosquitoes by injecting bacteria in them which stops its dispersal. A study in 2013 found that every year above 528 million people get infected with dengue fever and up to 96 million of them required medical treatment.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection with symptoms of severe flu, high fever, joint pain, headache, and a rash. Scientists are currently working on a pioneer program focused to tackle the threatening disease.
The researcher’s team led by Dr. Nazni Wasi Ahmad at the Institute for Medical Research has engineered the mosquito Aedes aegypti, dengue carrier which is the most common mosquito in urban areas of South East Asia.
There is evidence of disease spread. Experts predicted that in the coming decades it could occur in Western Europe and even in the UK.
The team of scientists at the University of Glasgow initiated their program two years ago in Malaysia. It involves the release of thousands of laboratory-grown mosquitoes in densely populated regions. The technique used by scientists is also being used in various other parts of the world where mosquito-borne diseases are problematic. Fogging is one of the traditional methods to tackle dengue but it isn’t a long-lasting solution as said by the experts.
This revolutionary approach relies on the breeding of Wolbachia mosquitoes to create a colony which blocks the disease transmission.
One of the professors from the University of Melbourne, Ary Hoffmann said that in his opinion the potential of this new research is certainly massive. The initial trial shows a good dengue reduction of 40% or so. Before starting the trials, almost four years ago, there were 363 cases and the number dropped to 72.
Dengue is spreading across South East Asia and it can be deadly. More than 100 people died this year because of dengue infection. People who are traveling to South East Asia are at high risk from dengue fever and other mosquito-borne infections and there is a possibility of contracting it at home.
Dr. Yasmin Mohamed Gan said that the cases of dengue fever have become doubled this year at Sungai Buloh. She said that the dengue infection leaves an impact in hospitals, as well as in the community and the healthcare system. A lot of young healthy people tend to get sicker. There is any cure for dengue, so the focus is on to find methods and ways for its prevention.
Professor Steven Sinkins at the University of Glasgow is focused to expand the program. They are predicting long-term blocking of dengue transmission. He added that the Wolbachia remain at a high level and will expand in the surrounding areas. They are hopeful for the long- term prospects.
According to the World Health Organization, around half of the world population is currently at the risk of dengue infection and the increase in the cases is expected. So, the team is hopeful that these engineered mosquitoes could be life-saving for millions of people in the future. It is just a beginning in the battle to stop or tackle dengue fever.