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Townsville mosquito trial hailed a success

Australian researchers think they’ve found a way to protect people from mosquito-borne diseases.Researchers are confident they’ve found a cost-effective and quick way for communities to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases.
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Monash University says there hasn’t been a single case of locally transmitted dengue fever in the past four rainy seasons in Townsville since mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacteria were released in the north Queensland city.

The university’s World Mosquito Program is investigating the practicality of using Wolbachia to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

It has developed technology which shows the ability of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to transmit diseases such as dengue, Zika and chikungunya is reduced when the naturally-occurring bacteria is introduced.

Mosquitoes carrying the bacteria pass on this ability after being introduced to local populations.

Program director Professor Scott O’Neill said the Townsville success showed the method was self-sustaining and cost-effective.

“At a cost of around $15 per person, the Townsville trial demonstrates the approach can be rolled out quickly, efficiently and cost effectively to help provide communities ongoing protection from mosquito-borne diseases,” Professor O’Neill said.

The program now aims to deploy Wolbachia mosquitoes in larger cities around the world with a target of reducing the cost to just US$1 per person.

“Not only were communities accepting of the technology, but they also became active participants, with residents and local school students growing and releasing their own Wolbachia mosquitoes,” Prof O’Neill said about the Townsville program.

“We believe our approach will be suitable for other cities, with appropriate local adaptation, and provides a framework for scaling-up our deployment, globally.”

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