School projects and castles in blue: what's new with the WMP in Brazil

The walls of the neo-Moorish castle at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation were illuminated in a special shade last month: a bright royal blue. The lighting display was a celebration of the arrival of the World Mosquito Program (WMP)’s Wolbachia method in eight new neighbourhoods throughout Rio de Janeiro – including the Manguinhos campus of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).

The Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes have a reduced ability to transmit dengue, Zika and chikungunya, helping to protect local communities against mosquito-borne diseases. The mosquitoes will be released over 16 weeks by Fiocruz technicians and health workers of the municipality at selected locations. Through the releases, the WMP is aiming to protect almost 900,000 inhabitants in more than 50 neighbourhoods across the two cities of Rio de Janeiro and Niterói.

The latest mosquito releases are not the only milestone worth celebrating in Brazil. The WMP’s Community Engagement team are now implementing a new "DLO na Escola" (MRC in School) project for schools, which is designed to popularise science, teach students about diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and promote the importance of the Wolbachia method in the classroom. The Mosquito Release Container (MRC) is the device the WMP uses to grow and release mosquito eggs.

The project educates students in the territories where the WMP is working to prevent diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti. The WMP staff in Brazil share methods of disease control and prevention, and encourage young people to be interested in science. Students are also guided through discussions about topics such as public health, socio-environmental issues and strategies for the control of Aedes aegypti.

Students at the Rodrigo Otávio Municipal School, Rio de Janeiro, were the first to be involved in the project. Participating students monitored the MRC and observed the different development stages of the Aedes aegypti, from the egg to the adult stage.

Tainá Lima and Chauan Costa, students at the Municipal School Nerval de Gouveia in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, are participating in the program. “I learned about dengue, that we have to take care of our health and the environment so we do not have diseases," says Tainá.

Chauan, meanwhile, has experienced the effects of mosquito-borne diseases at home. "I, my mother and my sister had dengue,” he says. The program has taught Chauan to take care of the environment, and to minimise the risk of mosquito breeding sites developing near his family home.

The Professor of Sciences of the Rodrigo Otávio Municipal School, Taíse Salgado, expressed his excitement for the project. "We intend to use this activity at the end of the year at the science fair to try to engage other classes in the same project, or even carry out other projects," she says.

Each school participating in the project will follow two cycles of mosquito development that last, on average, 30 days. Two schools within Rio's municipal network are already participating in the project and another is in the planning stage to receive the activities. The project is a collaboration between the WMP and the Municipal Department of Education of Rio de Janeiro.

Learn more about the "DLO na Escola" project and other activities that the WMP is running in Brazil here.