Genetically modified mosquitoes used to curb outbreaks

Genetically modified mosquitoes used to curb outbreaks

PETALING JAYA - Genetically modified mosquitoes are being tried out in efforts to eliminate dengue outbreaks in a number of countries.

The Eliminate Dengue project employs Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacteria, to reduce the ability of mosquitoes to pass the dengue strain to people.

The bacteria is found naturally in up to 60 per cent of all insect species, but not the dengue carrying mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

Among the countries that have begun testing, the success rate of this project was seen in Brazil which has the highest number of dengue cases in the world (3.2 million) and 800 deaths between 2009 and 2014.

Brazil first released 10,000 Wolbachia mosquitoes in September last year in Rio de Janeiro, after over two years of monitoring mosquitoes at field trial sites.

While results have yet to be made public in Brazil, the mosquitoes are making a buzz in north Queensland, Australia after they were released there in October last year.

Queensland's health department had on Jan 23 confirmed a few dengue cases in the region, but the research team found no cases in areas where there were genetically modified mosquitoes.

Other countries have devised a colour-coded system to alert citizens of the severity of a dengue outbreak. Singapore is an example.

A green alert meant the area was dengue-free while any area with less than 10 cases of dengue reported will be placed on a yellow alert.

A red alert is issued once an area reports more than 10 cases.

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