Australian experiment wipes out over 80% of disease-carrying mosquitoes

Henrietta Strickland
July 12, 2018

More than 80 per cent of a dengue fever-spreading mosquito has been wiped out in an Australian town during a landmark trial that scientists yesterday said offered hope for combating the risky pest globally. Female mosquitoes were found unable to reproduce properly after scientists introduced sterile males to the population.

A successful mosquito experiment in northern Queensland could hold the key to saving millions of people from being infected with diseases including the deadly Zika virus.

"The invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito is one of the world's most risky pests, capable of spreading devastating diseases like dengue, Zika and chikungunya and responsible for infecting millions of people with disease around the world each year", Dr Rob Grenfell, director of health and biosecurity at Australia's national science body, the CSIRO, said on Tuesday.

"What we were doing is releasing only males that had this wolbachia, and they would cross with mosquitoes in the field, the wild mosquitoes that didn't have that same strain of wolbachia, and as a result the wild females would only lay sterile eggs and so the population would crash", De Barro continued.

In what sounds like a self-defeating move, the team bred 20 million mosquitoes in a lab and proceeded to release 3 million in three towns on the Cassowary Coast last summer.

CNN reports that the Aedes mosquitos are one of the three most risky species in the world, and that diseases carried by those three species account for almost 70 percent of all infectious disease transmissions globally.

A team of Australian researchers is making serious strides in the global campaign to prevent spread of the risky diseases like dengue fever and Zika.

The Aedes aegypti is responsible for infecting nearly 400 million people globally with diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya. And because males don't bite (they prefer to chomp on plant nectar), there was no risk they would spread disease.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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