An international research project to eliminate dengue fever has  reported successful results from a field trial in which 150,000 mosquitoes infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia that  prevents the dengue virus from growing in the insect were released into two suburbs in Cairns.


The field trial involved releasing Wolbachia mosquitoes every week for 10 weeks. Five weeks after the final release researchers found that 100 per cent of the mosquitoes at one site carried Wolbachia and 90 per cent at the other.


The research, led by Professor Scott O’Neill, Dean of Monash University’s Faculty of Science, has been published in the journal, Nature.


“The research describes the successful establishment of a particularly promising Wolbachia strain within the dengue mosquito in the lab, its subsequent ability to reduce dengue transmission potential of the mosquito, and also the successful introduction of the same Wolbachia strain into wild mosquito populations in Australia,” Professor O’Neill said.


“These findings tell us that Wolbachia-based strategies are practical to implement and might hold the key to a new sustainable approach to dengue control, an approach that should be particularly suited to large cities of the developing world where conventional control with insecticides is largely ineffective and prohibitively expensive.”


Further trials will be conducted in Cairns over the coming wet season and approval is currently being sought for trials in Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and Indonesia that will directly determine the effectiveness of the method in reducing dengue disease in human populations.