The Eliminate Dengue Program uses a natural bacteria called Wolbachia to reduce the ability of mosquitoes to transmit harmful human viruses. Wolbachia occur naturally in up to 60% of all insect species but not the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can carry viruses including dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika.
Our research has shown that when Wolbachia is introduced into the Aedes aegypti mosquito, these viruses cannot grow inside the mosquito’s body, which means they cannot be passed between people. We have been carrying out field trials of this method in Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia and our results since 2011 have been very encouraging.
We release a controlled number of mosquitoes that carry Wolbachia into dengue-affected communities, where they then breed with local mosquitoes. As the bacteria is passed on from generation to generation, over time the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without any further releases.
In some areas we ask community members and groups to assist our releases using Mozzie Boxes - ‘DIY’ kits delivered by the Eliminate Dengue team on a fortnightly basis over a number of weeks. In other areas, our team releases adult mosquitoes with Wolbachia from the nature strip outside people’s homes. The method used is based on a number of factors, including environment and location.
Our aim is to establish high levels of Wolbachia within the local mosquito population, which we expect will help prevent transmission of dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses.
In Australia, the release of Wolbachia mosquitoes has received government approval through the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).
Anyone who does not want to take part in our research can opt out by contacting us.