Updated Jan 15, 2021

Self-sustaining Wolbachia method

www.worldmosquitoprogram.org

Peter Ryan

Our innovative solution is a safe, self-sustaining approach for eliminating disease by utilizing Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium present in many insects, but not the Aedes aegypti mosquito. WMP research has shown that the presence of Wolbachia in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes reduces their ability to transmit viruses including dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. Since this discovery, WMP ...
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Our innovative solution is a safe, self-sustaining approach for eliminating disease by utilizing Wolbachia, a naturally occurring bacterium present in many insects, but not the Aedes aegypti mosquito. WMP research has shown that the presence of Wolbachia in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes reduces their ability to transmit viruses including dengue, chikungunya, and Zika. Since this discovery, WMP has developed a way to introduce Wolbachia into wild mosquito populations in order to reduce disease transmission. This research is the first of its kind in the world and could potentially benefit an estimated 3 billion people living in dengue transmission areas worldwide. The approach works by seeding wild mosquito populations with Wolbachia through controlled deployments of relatively small numbers of Wolbachia infected mosquitoes. These mosquitoes then breed with local mosquitoes and the Wolbachia is passed on to the mosquitoes in the local area. Over several months, the frequency of Wolbachia in the local mosquito population increases, until such time as the majority of mosquitoes in the area carry Wolbachia and itself sustains. Independent modeling indicates decades of impact on disease reduction.The WMP partners have successfully deployed Wolbachia in ten countries. Consistent with laboratory and modeling estimates, WMP’s method is leading to elimination or major reductions in dengue incidence in communities where Wolbachia is established.
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Focus Areas:

Infectious & Vector Diseases

Infectious & Vector DiseasesSEE LESS

Problem

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified dengue as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019. The Zika virus pandemic of 2016 had a devastating impact on congenitally infected newborns, with 84 countries now affected. Currently, mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and Zika threaten over 3.9 billion people around the world, mostly in areas where household and national incomes are low. Furthermore, climate change is expected to significantly increase the global population at risk of these diseases. Conventional disease control measures against these diseases are not working. An effective sustainable solution is urgently required to tackle a worsening global problem.

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Solution

Our solution is focused on protecting communities at risk from diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, including dengue, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever. It involves implementing a disruptive, self-sustaining, cost-effective, biological control method that uses a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia. This approach represents a paradigm shift in control and avoidance of these diseases and we are now aiming to protect 100 million people in 16 of the 20 countries with the highest global disease burdens by 2023.

Target Beneficiaries

The Wolbachia method is designed to deliver improved health outcomes for all members of a community including women, men, girls and boys. In this respect, it is a truly egalitarian public health response, providing equal protection from disease without reference to a person’s gender, age, wealth, or any other characteristic. The effect of the intervention is experienced equally by all people residing within the target areas. However, it is recognised that globally, dengue and Zika disproportionally affect children and women. Children and adolescents are generally the age group where dengue incidence is highest however, research from Vietnam indicates that girls are more likely to develop severe symptoms compared to similarly aged boys. Further, the burden of caring for family members with dengue typically falls to the mother. Zika fetal syndrome in newborns can have devastating severe outcomes on the child and the mental health impacts on the mother are immense. Indeed, Zika epidemics have been associated with increased abortion rates and postponement of pregnancies. Collectively these impacts exacerbate economic, health and social inequalities for women and girls in settings where they are already marginalised by cultural inequalities.
New Implemented CountriesBrazil, Fiji, Colombia, Kiribati, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, Vanuatu