American Billionaire and boss of Microsoft, Bill Gates, will start breeding mosquitoes in a bid to eradicate Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) under a programme that was previously proven effective after a trial in Yogyakarta.
Gates said inside a two-story brick building in Medellín, Colombia, scientists work long hours in a humid laboratory to breed millions of mosquitoes. Scientists cater to the insects’ every need as they grow from larvae to adult pupae, keeping the temperature just right and providing them with plenty of fish food, sugar, and blood.
Then the team releases them across the country to breed with wild mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever and other viruses that threaten to sicken and kill Colombians. The mosquitoes that are released are not meant to terrorise the local population, rather they’ve actually helped save millions of lives.
The mosquitoes produced at this factory carry a bacterium called Wolbachia that prevents them from transmitting dengue and other viruses, such as Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever to humans. By releasing them to breed with wild mosquitoes, the Wolbachia bacteria spreads to reduce virus transmission and protect millions of people from disease.
“I’ve written before about these amazing Wolbachia mosquitoes, including last year when a new study showed how effective they are at preventing disease,” said Gates on his official blog.
“A randomised controlled trial in Yogyakarta, Indonesia found that Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes reduced dengue cases in the city by 77 percent and dengue inpatients by 86 percent,” he wrote.
In a new study in Medellín, dengue cases have decreased by 89 percent since Wolbachia mosquitoes began to be released in 2015. This result is a major breakthrough, offering evidence that this new technology will protect entire cities and countries from the threat of mosquito-borne diseases.
The World Mosquito Program which is leading Wolbachia efforts is now releasing these mosquitoes in 11 countries namely:
- Sri Lanka
- New Caledonia
Once the Wolbachia mosquitoes reach a critical mass to offer disease protection, it’s a standalone solution.
The World Mosquito Program aims to spread Wolbachia among Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the tropical mosquitoes that host dengue fever, yellow fever, and other viruses. Malaria is spread through parasites carried by the Anopheles mosquito and is not the focus of Wolbachia’s efforts.