Researchers eye method to block dengue fever transmission

Researchers progress toward dengue fever elimination
Researchers progress toward dengue fever elimination | Courtesy of
Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia have collaborated with international associates to create a novel method to block mosquitoes from carrying dengue virus.

A specific breed of mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, infects humans with dengue virus through their bites. The scientists created a mathematical model of the virus transmission and then used experimental results as their data basis to predict how much of a decrease Wolbachia -- an insect bacteria -- would bring to dengue transmission rates.

“We did a ‘real world’ experiment and allowed mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia and uninfected mosquitoes to feed on the blood of Vietnamese dengue patients. Our team then measured how efficiently Wolbachia blocked dengue virus infection of the mosquito body and saliva, which in turn stops them spreading the virus between humans,” University of Melbourne professor Cameron Simmons said.

In light of this research, which was conducted in several scenarios, Cairns and Townsville have introduced Wolbachia into its mosquito populations to reduce rates of dengue.

“We found that Wolbachia could eliminate dengue transmission in locations where the intensity of transmission is low or moderate. In high transmission settings, Wolbachia would also cause a significant reduction in transmission,” Simmons said. “Our findings are important because they provide realistic measures of the ability of Wolbachia to block transmission of the dengue virus and provide precise projections of its impact on dengue infections.”

Simmons said their results will enable policy makers in dengue-affected countries to make informed decisions on Wolbachia's use when allocating resources to control the disease.