Scientists believe the mosquitos can be used to fight the Zika virus. But… weren’t they the problem in the first place?
It’s time to fight fire with fire.
In an effort to combat the Zika epidemic, scientists are planning to deploy millions of mosquitoes infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia, which inhibits the bugs from passing Zika onto people.
The mosquitoes will be released throughout Brazil and Columbia in an attempt to contain the widespread virus. The initiative is being funded by The Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with U.S., U.K., and Brazilian governments. It’ll cost $18 million in total, reports The Guardian.
Wolbachia bacteria can be found in 60% of mosquitoes around the world – but can’t be found in the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses.
The Eliminate Dengue Program’s researchers were the ones to develop a method to transfer the bacteria to Aedes mosquitoes. Small observational trials in multiple countries, including Brazil and Columbia, show that the Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are unable to pass dengue to humans.
The goal now is for the released Wolbachia-infused mosquitoes to breed with the local mosquitoes of South America, and pass the bacteria to the offspring, facilitating a self-sustaining solution.
“Wolbachia could be a revolutionary form of protection against mosquito-borne disease,” said Dr. Trevor Mundel, president of the global health division of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“It’s affordable, sustainable, and appears to provide protection against Zika, dengue, and a host of other viruses. We’re eager to study its impact and how it can help countries.”