The results of the three-year study offer hope in the global battle against a disease that makes millions of people sick every year.
Dengue infections have dropped dramatically in an Indonesian study where bacteria were introduced into disease-carrying mosquitoes, offering hope in the battle against a disease that makes millions of people sick worldwide every year .
The results of the three-year study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, found that infection of mosquitoes carrying dengue fever with a harmless bacteria called Wolbachia has resulted in a 77% drop in human cases.
Infections requiring hospitalization were also reduced by 86% in areas treated with Wolbachia in Yogyakarta, a city on the island of Java where the experiment was conducted, the researchers said.
The study was conducted by the World Mosquito Program at Monash University in Australia and Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia.
“The figure of 77% is honestly pretty fantastic for a communicable disease and we are very grateful for the result,” said Adi Utarini, public health researcher at Gadjah Mada University who was co-leader of the study.
The trial consisted of releasing Wolbachia into the mosquito population in specific parts of Yogyakarta to measure its impact on the incidence of infections in people aged three to 45.
It has now been extended to other parts of the city.
Wolbachia suppresses the ability of the virus to replicate in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry dengue fever and to cause infections when they bite humans.
Previous trials involving Wolbachia – commonly found in fruit flies and other insects – have also shown positive results in reducing cases of dengue, the researchers said.
Scientists hope the method could be a game-changer in a global battle against the disease, which can sometimes be fatal.
Symptoms usually include body aches, fever, and nausea.
“This is the outcome we expected,” said Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program.
“We have proof that our Wolbachia method is safe, sustainable and significantly reduces the incidence of dengue.
“This gives us great confidence in the positive impact this method will have worldwide when delivered to communities at risk of these mosquito-borne diseases,” he added.
Dengue is the fastest-spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world with more than 50 million cases worldwide each year, of which around eight million are in Indonesia.
Studies have also shown that the Wolbachia method may be effective in preventing the transmission of Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne diseases, the researchers said.