Mosquitoes armed with virus-fighting bacteria sharply curb dengue infections, hospitalizations

K. Servick,  Science,  2021.

A strategy for fighting dengue fever with bacteria-armed mosquitoes has passed its most rigorous test yet: a large, randomized, controlled trial. Researchers reported today dramatic reductions in rates of dengue infection and hospitalization in areas of an Indonesian city where the disease-fighting mosquitoes were released. The team expects the World Health Organization (WHO) to formally recommend the approach for broader use. The findings are a “breakthrough” that brings the approach “much closer to … being an official strategy to control dengue,” says Ewa Chrostek, an infection biologist at the University of Liverpool who was not involved with the work. WHO estimates there are 100 million to 400 million infections per year with dengue, which can cause high fever and severe joint pain. The bacterium Wolbachia pipientis naturally inhabits many insects, though not Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the main transmitter of dengue virus. In A. aegypti cells, the bacterium can block viruses, including dengue, from replicating, making the insects less likely to spread disease when they bite humans. That has made the microbe a promising strategy for fighting dengue. In tropical regions, where mosquito-borne viruses are common, other strategies such as insecticides have failed to fully control the disease.

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