Mosquitoes are helping to fight one of the world’s fastest spreading viruses – this is how

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Dengue fever symptoms range from headache and nausea to severe organ dysfunction.
  • The disease is found in more than 100 countries throughout the tropics.
  • Dengue is the world’s fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease.
  • The World Mosquito Program describes its Wolbachia method as safe and sustainable.

Mosquitoes are helping scientists tackle a lethal virus for which there is no effective vaccine or treatment.

Dengue fever causes up to 400 million infections a year and can lead to serious illness and death. It’s now the fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world.

Now a trial in Indonesia has seen a 77% drop in dengue fever cases after mosquitoes were infected with a bacteria commonly found in insects. It’s called Wolbachia and it reduces a mosquito’s ability to spread dengue, by making it harder for the virus to replicate.

There are around 8 million dengue cases a year in Indonesia. The trial took place in Yogyakarta, a city on the island of Java. Mosquitoes hatched from five million eggs infected with Wolbachia were released across half of a 26km2 urban area housing about 300,000 people.

A trial in Indonesia by the World Mosquito Program has seen a dramatic 77% drop in dengue fever cases
A trial in Indonesia by the World Mosquito Program has seen a 77% drop in dengue fever cases Image: World Mosquito Program

The World Mosquito Program, which is working in 11 countries to help reduce the impact of mosquito-borne diseases, said the results of the trial, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, have “significant implications” for the 40% of the world’s population at risk of dengue.

“This is the result we’ve been waiting for,” said Professor Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program. “We have evidence our Wolbachia method is safe, sustainable and dramatically reduces incidence of dengue.”

As the chart below shows, the success of the trial in Indonesia has been replicated in a number of countries where similar studies have taken place.

Trials using Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes have proved successful in a number of countries.
Trials using Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes have proved successful in a number of countries. Image: World Mosquito Program

Rapid growth

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), reported dengue cases have grown eight-fold in 20 years. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics.

The disease is now regularly found in more than 100 countries throughout the tropics, where it is a threat to nearly half the world’s population, the WHO says. Affected countries in 2021 include Brazil, Colombia, Fiji, Kenya, Paraguay and Peru.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about epidemics?

Epidemics are a huge threat to health and the economy: the vast spread of disease can literally destroy societies.

In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and to enable access to them during outbreaks.Davos 2019 – Press Conference: CEPI – Building a Global C…

Our world needs stronger, unified responses to major health threats. By creating alliances and coalitions like CEPI, which involve expertise, funding and other support, we are able to collectively address the most pressing global health challenges.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum to tackle global health issues? Find out more here.

What dengue fever does

At its mildest, symptoms include fever, headache and nausea. More severe symptoms can include severe abdominal pain and persistent vomiting. Life-threatening complications can include severe organ dysfunction.

Severe dengue is a leading cause of serious illness in some tropical countries and needs intensive care by experienced medical professionals.

With COVID-19 putting health systems under huge risk, the WHO has stressed the importance of continuing to tackle diseases like dengue, especially as case numbers surge.

“The combined impact of COVID-19 and dengue epidemics can potentially result in devastating consequences on the populations at risk,” WHO says.

The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, primarily the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads viruses including yellow fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

Click and Download: your app is ready to help you save lives

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

Public Health equality in a trench

10 ways cities are tackling the global affordable housing crisis

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Long-term EU budget: It is not possible to do more with less, say MEPs

UN chief saddened at news of death of former US President George H.W. Bush

End discrimination against women and children affected by leprosy

Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid

These tech start-ups are changing what it means to farm

Attack on Saudi facilities risks dragging Yemen into ‘regional conflagration’: UN Envoy

Celebrating the Customs Union: the world’s largest trading bloc turns 50

How to outsmart bias when you’re recruiting

Primary Healthcare vs Specialization Careers, how to promote PHC to the Young Health Workforce?

Haitian Foreign Minister calls for development reboot to close ‘striking gap’ between promises and action on ending poverty

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

European Democracy Action Plan: making EU democracies stronger

Why we need a blockchain bill of rights

Prospect of a nuclear war ‘higher than it has been in generations’, warns UN

Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets

How 3 MENA business leaders are building resilient companies post-COVID-19

Thousands of health professionals call on world leaders to prioritize a greener future, post-pandemic

Kenya wants to run entirely on green energy by 2020

COVID vaccination campaign. What are the challenges?

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

What the next 20 years will mean for jobs – and how to prepare

Statement by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, on the announcement to postpone the COP26

EU and US take decisive step to end aircraft dispute

How COVID-19 is making companies act for the long term

We need tech solutions that value human interaction more than ever

Grievous violations continue against Myanmar civilians, Human Rights Council hears

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

Guterres lauds UN peacekeeping, highlights need to bridge ‘critical’ gaps

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises

London wants to treat violent crime like a disease

Cybersecurity Act: build trust in digital technologies

MasterCard @ MWC14: Innovation in times of regulatory uncertainty

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

‘Protracted crisis’ in Venezuela leads to ‘alarming escalation of tensions’: UN political chief

From battlefields to boardrooms: 3 steps to building high-morale teams

‘Act now with ambition and urgency’ to tackle the world’s ‘grave climate emergency’, UN chief urges UAE meeting

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

State aid: Commission approves €790 million Croatian guarantee scheme for companies with export activities affected by coronavirus outbreak

How COVID-19 might help us win the fight against climate change

Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’ urges UN rights expert

5 urgent actions in the fightback against ransomware

The UN came of age with the nuclear bomb. Time for it to step up to the AI era

How can we prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 5 lessons from innovative schools around the world

How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

Commission disburses €14.1 billion under SURE to 12 Member States

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

UN study projects $32 billion loss for UK post no-deal Brexit

One for all? Are physicians prepared to deliver care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s