Release sterile Aedes male mosquitoes in Singapore, says experts

Release sterile Aedes male mosquitoes in Singapore, says experts

SINGAPORE - Dengue experts have recommended that Singapore release sterile Aedes male mosquitoes to suppress the dengue threat.

It is hoped that the sterile Aedes male mosquitoes, which are carrying the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria, will mate with Aedes female mosquitoes, thus producing eggs that do not hatch. This may then lead to a reduction in the mosquito population, rendering the Aedes population to a level that cannot sustain dengue transmission.

The Dengue Expert Advisory Panel, comprised of experts from Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, was appointed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) in June 2014, met for the first time on Monday to discuss Singapore's dengue problem, as well as methods to combat the menace.

Professor Ary Hoffmann, an expert on Wolbachia-insect interaction, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, said: "Wolbachia-carrying Aedes has been released in several places, such as Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam, with no negative impact on public health and ecology."

He further explained that organisms in the natural environment have been continuously exposed to Wolbachia for millions of years, making the method safe.

Male mosquitoes do not bite or transmit disease, and Wolbachia are naturally occurring bacteria found in more than 60 per cent of insect species, NEA said in a statement.

The expert panel also recommended that Singapore remain open to considering other novel technologies available to counter dengue.

NEA said that it will review the details of the recommendations, and continue working with experts and stakeholders to develop a framework for the safe and effective adoption of Wolbachia technology.

grongloh@sph.com.sg

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