Researchers discover way to breed ‘good’ mosquitoes that do not spread disease

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Researchers in Indonesia have found a way to breed “good” mosquitoes that won’t spread the deadly virus in a breakthrough that could potentially stop the spread of dengue fever.

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“Good” mosquitoes will have a bacteria called “Wolbachia” that blocks their ability to spread viruses such as dengue, Zika and yellow fever.

It is a common bacteria found naturally in 60 percent of insect species, including fruit flies, moths and butterflies. However, it is not found in the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread dengue, according to the non-profit World Mosquito Program, which started the research.


The researchers found that when mosquitoes carry Wolbachia, the bacteria compete with viruses such as dengue. This makes it difficult for the virus to reproduce and the chances of mosquitoes spreading the virus from person to person are very low.

“In principle, we are producing ‘good’ mosquitoes,” said researcher Purvanti. “Mosquitoes that carry dengue will mix with mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia, which will produce Wolbachia mosquitoes – the ‘good’ mosquitoes. So even if they do bite people, it will not affect them.”

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According to modeling estimates, there are about 400m infections of dengue fever every year, and the virus causes severe muscle and bone pain.

Since 2017, a joint study by the World Mosquito Program at Australia’s Monash University and Gadja Mada University in Indonesia has found some dengue fever ‘red zones’ in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta releasing lab-bred Wolbachia mosquitoes.

The test used the eggs of five million mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia. Eggs were laid in buckets of water every two weeks in the city, and the researchers took nine months to build up the mosquito population.

The results of the experiment, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a 77 percent reduction in cases when mosquito bites occurred and an 86 percent reduction in those requiring hospital care.

Lead researcher Adi Utarini said: “We have confidence in this technology, especially for areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the most responsible (infection) factor”.

Mr Purvaningish, whose family volunteered for the World Mosquito Programme, said: “All three of my children have been infected with dengue and are hospitalised… it has always been on my mind that I want to keep my village healthy. And how do I keep it clean?


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