Scientists in Australia have come up with a new way of preventing the spread of the potentially fatal dengue virus.
Dengue Fever is said to infect some 100 million people a year across the world. The infection is found in some 110 countries and spread between humans and misquotes in tropical climates.
The virus causes flu-like symptoms such as headache and joint pain and can be deadly to children who do not have fully developed immune systems.
The University of Melbourne discovered that mosquitoes were unable to acquire the dengue virus from infected humans after being exposed to an insect bacterium called Wolbachia.
Professor Cameron Simmons, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, said on Wednesday that the discovery could mean a drastic reduction in the cases of dengue.
“We did a ‘real world’ experiment and allowed mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia and uninfected mosquitoes to feed on the blood of Vietnamese dengue patients,” Simmons said.
“Our team then measured how efficiently Wolbachia blocked dengue virus infection of the mosquito body and saliva, which in turn stops them from spreading the virus between humans.”
For areas around the globe that have a low infection rate of dengue, exposing mosquitoes to Wolbachia could stop the cases of the virus all together.
“We found that Wolbachia could eliminate dengue transmission in locations where the intensity of transmission is low or moderate,” Simmons said.
“In high transmission settings, Wolbachia would also cause a significant reduction in transmission.
“Our findings are important because they provide realistic measures of the ability of Wolbachia to block transmission of the dengue virus and provide precise projections of its impact on dengue infections.”
Australia had introduced Wolbachia to tropical regions of Australia like Townsville and Cairns in northern Queensland – scientists are expecting a huge decline of dengue fever this year already.
“Our results will enable policy makers in dengue-affected countries to make informed decisions on Wolbachia when allocating scarce resources to dengue control,” Simmons said.
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