An entire city has been protected from the viral disease dengue for the first time according to Australian researchers.
Mosquitoes bred in captivity with a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia were released in the city of Townsville in the Queensland. By mating with local mosquitoes, the released individuals spread the bacteria, which hinders dengue transmission, allowing the city to be dengue-free since 2014.
Researchers from Monash University now believe that other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and malaria could be stopped using this technique.
“Nothing we’ve got is slowing these diseases down – they are getting worse,” said Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program, quoted by the Guardian.
“I think we’ve got something here that’s going to have a significant impact and I think this study is the first indication that it’s looking very promising.
In total, the researchers released the Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes over four monsoons seasons across 66 km sq in the Queensland town. The inhabitants of the tropical town embraced the project with school children taking part in the release effort of the special mosquitoes.
“At a cost of around A$15 (£8.50) per person, the Townsville trial demonstrates the approach can be rolled out quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively to help provide communities ongoing protection from mosquito-borne diseases,” Professor O’Neill said.
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