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The Truth about Mosquito Vectors and Wolbachia Mosquitos for Disease Control

History of Mosquito Control

Vector control began as an essential component of malaria prevention. Such control targets the mosquitoes capable of transmitting malaria parasites. Vector control has been proven to successfully reduce or interrupt malaria transmission when coverage is sufficiently high. These control techniques can be traced back to 1900 New Jersey when entomologist John Smith launched one of the most aggressive and successful mosquito attack campaign in modern history. 

Wolbachia was first discovered by scientists in the 1920s in mosquitoes living in the drainage system beneath the Harvard University School of Public Health. Found in 60 percent of all insect species – including dragonflies, fruit flies and moths – the bacteria was mostly ignored until the 1970s when researchers discovered it could be used to prevent the spread of disease by bugs. Over the years scientists have conducted anti-dengue experiments with Wolbachia-laden mosquitoes with varied success, but now WMP (World Mosquito Program) hopes it’s approach will stick. It is one of the only organizations in the world seeking to repopulate colonies with Wolbachia-infected mosquitos to fight dengue, estimated to spread to as many as 100 million people globally every year.

Wolbachia is safe for Animals, Humans and the Environment

For many years, scientists have been studying Wolbachia, looking for ways to use it to potentially control the mosquitoes that transmit human viruses. The World Mosquito Program’s research has shown that when introduced into the Aedes aegypti mosquito, Wolbachia can help to reduce the transmission of these viruses to people. This important discovery has the potential to transform the fight against life-threatening mosquito-borne diseases. Wolbachia is a naturally occurring bacteria that is safe for humans, animals, and the environment. 

The World Mosquito Program’s Wolbachia Method

The WMP’s field teams release male and female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with Wolbachia over several weeks. These mosquitoes then breed with the wild mosquito population. Over time, the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without the need for further releases. Mosquitoes with Wolbachia have a reduced ability to transmit viruses to people, decreasing the risk of Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever outbreaks.

The WMP’s Wolbachia method helps to protect communities from mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, and does so without posing a risk to natural ecosystems or human health. Their method has some unique features. Unlike most other initiatives, their method is natural and self-sustaining. It does not suppress mosquito populations or involve genetic modification (GM) as the genetic material of the mosquito has not been altered. 

The popular Wolbachia method is:

  • Self-Sustaining
  • Does not need to be reapplied
  • Affordable
  • Long Term Solution 

Follow the research into a disease-free future. 

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