28th August, 2018
Australian Scientists were on Tuesday awarded 38 million dollars in grant to develop and expand their work to reduce mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika worldwide.
Monash University’s World Mosquito Programme (WMP) takes a novel approach towards combating mosquito-borne diseases, which has gained increased attention following successful trials in the North Australian cities of Cairns and Townsville.
Now the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Welcome Trust have awarded additional funds to the programme, taking the total amount to 134 million dollars to assist in a worldwide rollout.
Counter-intuitively the WMP method actually involves releasing more mosquitoes, infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia, which then spreads to native populations of the insects.
“What we’ve found is that when mosquitoes have this bacterium inside their bodies the viruses can’t grow inside them, and if they can’t grow, they can’t be transmitted between people,” WMP Director Professor Scott O’Neill said.
Because of the unusual nature of the program, O’Neill believes that both in Australia and abroad it is particularly important to involve communities in the processes of planning, and even deployment.
In recent trials in Townsville, the community was involved in releasing the insects themselves, with packages distributed by the WMP containing mosquito eggs and fish food.