Advancing the World Mosquito Program's Wolbachia method in Brazil

Eliminate Dengue Brazil, part of the World Mosquito Program, has announced plans for further large-scale releases of Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes across 10 neighbourhoods in Ilha do Governador (Governador’s Island), Rio de Janeiro. Ilha do Governador has a population of 200,000 inhabitants in a small area of 36km2, making it a high-risk area for mosquito breeding grounds.

Brazil leads the world in the number of dengue cases with 3.2 million cases and 800 deaths reported from 2009-2014. Brazil has also been severely affected by outbreaks of Zika and chikungunya in the last few years. The World Mosquito Program’s Wolbachia method reduces the ability of mosquitoes to transmit these harmful mosquito-borne diseases.

Our project was brought to Brazil by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), under the guidance of the Ministry of Health, in 2015. Since then, our team has released mosquitoes in two small areas: Jurujuba, a neighbourhood of Niterói, and Tubiacanga, a district of Rio de Janeiro.

“More than a year and a half after we completed our releases in these two locations, weekly monitoring of mosquitoes collected in traps has shown that over 90% carry Wolbachia,” explains Eliminate Dengue Brazil's Project Manager, Luciano Moreira. “The mosquitoes are continuing to carry Wolbachia and self-sustaining at high levels, as seen in our Australian project sites."

“Fiocruz’s mission is innovation in science and technology, and the Eliminate Dengue Brazil project is another step in the right direction,” says Fiocruz President, Nísia Trindade Lima. “We are delighted to see high levels of community engagement and endorsement for this project.”

Before launching our project expansion in Brazil, our community health agents went door-to-door throughout potential release areas. They explained that our Wolbachia method is of no risk to human health or local ecosystems and discussed the project thoroughly with members of the community. Community acceptance is key to our work in global communities, as well as gaining regulatory approval from local governments and health authorities.

“Our island was a severely affected area in the last dengue epidemic in 2015,” says local student and resident of Governador Island, Luan Ferreira. “Then when Fiocruz brought a possibility of a solution to our battle against mosquito-borne diseases, we embraced it.”

Learn more about our work in Brazil.