Assessing the efficacy of male Wolbachia-infected mosquito deployments to reduce dengue incidence in Singapore: study protocol for a cluster-randomized controlled trial

J. Ong, S. H. Ho, S. X. H. Soh, Y. Wong, Y. Ng, K. Vasquez, Y. L. Lai, Y. X. Setoh, C. S. Chong, V. Lee, J. C. C. Wong, C. H. Tan, S. Sim, L. C. Ng and J. T. Lim,  Trials,  23:1023. 2022.

BACKGROUND: Dengue is a severe environmental public health challenge in tropical and subtropical regions. In Singapore, decreasing seroprevalence and herd immunity due to successful vector control has paradoxically led to increased transmission potential of the dengue virus. We have previously demonstrated that incompatible insect technique coupled with sterile insect technique (IIT-SIT), which involves the release of X-ray-irradiated male Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, reduced the Aedes aegypti population by 98% and dengue incidence by 88%. This novel vector control tool is expected to be able to complement current vector control to mitigate the increasing threat of dengue on a larger scale. We propose a multi-site protocol to study the efficacy of IIT-SIT at reducing dengue incidence. METHODS/DESIGN: The study is designed as a parallel, two-arm, non-blinded cluster-randomized (CR) controlled trial to be conducted in high-rise public housing estates in Singapore, an equatorial city-state. The aim is to determine whether large-scale deployment of male Wolbachia-infected Ae. aegypti mosquitoes can significantly reduce dengue incidence in intervention clusters. We will use the CR design, with the study area comprising 15 clusters with a total area of 10.9 km(2), covering approximately 722,204 residents in 1713 apartment blocks. Eight clusters will be randomly selected to receive the intervention, while the other seven will serve as non-intervention clusters. Intervention efficacy will be estimated through two primary endpoints: (1) odds ratio of Wolbachia exposure distribution (i.e., probability of living in an intervention cluster) among laboratory-confirmed reported dengue cases compared to test-negative controls and (2) laboratory-confirmed reported dengue counts normalized by population size in intervention versus non-intervention clusters. DISCUSSION: This study will provide evidence from a multi-site, randomized controlled trial for the efficacy of IIT-SIT in reducing dengue incidence. The trial will provide valuable information to estimate intervention efficacy for this novel vector control approach and guide plans for integration into national vector control programs in dengue-endemic settings. TRIAL REGISTRATION:, identifier: NCT05505682 . Registered on 16 August 2022. Retrospectively registered.

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