Wolbachia found to reduce Zika virus in Brazilian Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

New research confirms the ability of naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to reduce Zika virus in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, predicting reduced transmission and disease caused by Zika.

Published in Cell Host & Microbe, the first published report on the effect of Wolbachia on Zika virus was produced by researchers at Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) as part of the international research collaboration Eliminate Dengue.

Dr Luciano Moreira, senior author of the report and head of the Eliminate Dengue project in Brazil, said the potential of Wolbachia to inhibit transmission of mosquito-borne viruses had been known for some time and was already being used internationally as a natural control method for the dengue virus.

 

Dr Moreira’s team gave Brazilian field mosquitoes and Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes the Zika virus by feeding them with two recently isolated strains of the virus circulating in Brazil. Mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia showed greatly reduced virus in mosquito saliva indicating that Wolbachia would be expected to block Zika transmission in the field.

Program lead scientist Professor Scott O’Neill from Monash University, said there had been good progress in the program’s smaller trials and that preparations were being finalised for larger scale releases.

After receiving a recommendation for pilot deployment from the WHO earlier in the year, PAHO announced in April they would provide technical support for Zika affected countries wanting to deploy the Wolbachia method.