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

How COVID-19 could open the door for driverless deliveries

4 steps to developing responsible AI

Capital markets selloff: The financial moguls send messages to monetary authorities

5 crises that could worsen under COVID-19

CEOs as activists: should leaders speak up about social causes?

Refugee crisis update: Commission is struggling alone with little help from EU or G7 leaders

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Albinism, displacement in Central America, family-friendly nations, updates on the Gulf and Darfur

This city is planting a tree for every man, woman and child

Belgium: keep up reforms to increase employment and productivity growth

COVID-19 : Have we learnt any lessons at all from last year?

Our poisonous air is harming our children’s brains

UN human rights chief fears world has grown numb to Syrian carnage

The European Green Deal must be at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery

EU and 15 World Trade Organization members establish contingency appeal arrangement for trade disputes

Mental health in times of a pandemic: what can each individual do to lessen the burden?

China revisited by the former Ambassador of Hungary to China

Coronavirus: Team Europe continues to deliver with more than €26 billion disbursed in support to partner countries in one year

Thousands returning to Nigeria’s restive Borno state ‘at risk’; UN ‘gravely concerned’

Russia and the West use the same tactics to dismember Ukraine

OECD Secretary-General Gurría welcomes announcement of new trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada

Iraq: Solutions needed ‘urgently’ to quell ongoing violence, break political deadlock

Brexit: No deal without marginalizing the hard Tory Eurosceptic MPs

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

‘Bleakest period yet’ in Occupied Palestinian Territory: UN human rights expert

EU: All economic indicators in free fall

How do we upskill a billion people by 2030? Leadership and collaboration will be key

5 things you probably didn’t know about global health

A fairer world requires fairer tech. Here’s why

The world’s coastal cities are going under. Here’s how some are fighting back

The power of digital tools to transform mental healthcare

How has technology changed – and changed us – in the past 20 years?

The European Commission cuts roaming charges. But “it’s not enough”…

What have the banks done to the markets making them unable to bear cheap oil?

These 3 tech visionaries are reinventing the wheelchair

7 ways to break the fast fashion habit – and save the planet

Environmental liability rules need revamping

Fall asleep in Vienna, wake up in Paris – Europe’s night trains make a comeback

Human rights champions from across the world receive top UN prize

Young people worldwide can ‘determine the future of migration,’ says UN senior official

From violence to dialogue: as land conflicts intensify, UN boosts efforts to resolve disputes through mediation

How data is transforming the way we care for the ocean

European Fund for Transition to support more workers made redundant

The European Council takes more measures to stem illegal migration

Commission initiates an investigation to decide whether to prolong the steel safeguard measure

What’s the difference between carbon negative and carbon neutral?

Multilateralism’s ‘proven record of service’ is focus of first-ever International Day

Illness in health workers: when the caregiver becomes the patient

Ocean Conference has potential to be a ‘global game-changer’

An entrepreneurial point-of view on tackling the migration crisis and the risks of abolishing Schengen

Victims’ Rights: New Strategy to empower victims

Why the global trade of chemicals is key to COVID-19 recovery

An electric motorbike could help tackle big game poaching. Here’s how

Changing world of work needs new jobs strategy

Same-sex marriages and partnerships should be recognised across the EU

Poliomielitis: climatic changes and impossibility in border control

Working with millennials, leaders say humility works better than bossing around

To take or not to take – The Indian vaccination dilemma

Coronavirus global response: EU Humanitarian Air Bridge to Iraq and new funding

ECB readies itself for extraordinary monetary measures defying Germany


More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

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

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: