Half a century ago, few people would have heard of dengue, with only nine countries experiencing severe outbreaks in 1970, but today the number of infections reaches 400 million cases annually, the BBC news portal writes.
Dengue fever is also called “fracture fever” because it can cause severe pain in the muscles and bones.
In a recent study conducted in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, mosquitoes were infected with Wolbachia bacteria. One of the researchers, Katie Anders, called these microorganisms “natural miracle workers” that don’t harm mosquitoes, but do “camp” on the same parts of the insect’s body where the dengue virus enters the body.
The bacteria make it difficult for the virus to reproduce, so mosquitoes are less likely to become infected when they are bitten.
In the study, five million mosquitoes were infected with Wolbachia bacteria. The eggs were laid in buckets filled with water in the city every two weeks and an infected population was formed at nine months.
Yogyakarta was divided into 24 districts and mosquitoes were released in half of these districts.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a 77 percent reduction in dengue cases and an 86 percent reduction in the number of people requiring hospital treatment.
The method was so successful that infected mosquitoes spread all over the city and the project was extended to the surrounding areas with the aim of eradicating the virus in the area.
Anders, a senior fellow with the Global Mosquito Program, called the findings “groundbreaking.” As he said, “We believe the method could have a greater impact if used in large cities around the world where dengue is a huge public health problem.”
Wolbachia bacteria also manipulate the reproduction of the host animal, ensuring its transmission to future generations. This means that once the bacteria despise their feet, they remain in the mosquito’s body for a long time, providing protection for humans from infectious diseases.
The current findings are preceded by years of research, since the hip mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which spreads the dengue virus, is not naturally infected with the bacteria.