Our research

The World Mosquito Program (WMP) uses naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia, to help protect communities from harmful mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

Wolbachia naturally occurs in up to 60% of all insect species. However, it is not found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary species responsible for transmitting the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses. The WMP has successfully transferred Wolbachia from other insects into Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. When mosquitoes carry Wolbachia, they have a reduced ability to transmit these viruses.

We are implementing our method through controlled releases of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia in areas where mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya are endemic. Once Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes are released, they breed with wild mosquitoes. Over time, the majority of mosquitoes carry Wolbachia. These mosquitoes have a reduced ability to transmit viruses to people, decreasing the risk of Zika, dengue and chikungunya outbreaks.

The World Mosquito Program’s methods have been subjected to rigorous independent assessments. The results concluded that there is negligible risk associated with the release of Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes and that Wolbachia is safe for people, animals and the environment. The World Health Organization has recommended further pilot deployments of the WMP’s Wolbachia method.

We have been conducting trials of our Wolbachia method in communities affected by mosquito-borne diseases since 2011, which have shown we can successfully deploy the method without posing risks to natural ecosystems or public health. Unlike most initiatives, our method is natural and self-sustaining.

The World Mosquito Program is currently operating in 12 countries around the world – including Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Mexico. Over the last few years we have implemented strategies, with independent assessment, to measure the reduction in mosquito-borne diseases brought about by our Wolbachia method. These strategies include a gold-standard randomised controlled trial in Indonesia.

We have demonstrated that Wolbachia reduces a mosquito’s ability to transmit human viruses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya and that our approach is compatible and complementary with existing vector control strategies. We are confident that our Wolbachia method - a self-sustaining, long-term approach - will reduce the global burden of mosquito-borne diseases.

Read more about our Wolbachia method.