New Australian research could help eradicate the spread of mosquito-borne disease

By AAP 6 October 2021
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Mosquito-borne diseases including dengue fever, yellow fever and the Zika virus could be widely reduced thanks to research carried out in north Queensland.

Research carried out in north Queensland could help eradicate the spread of mosquito-borne disease across the world, including dengue fever, yellow fever and the Zika virus. 

It found that a sterilisation program of the world’s most widespread disease-carrying mosquito, the Aedes aegypti, could prevent the insect from producing offspring.

The 20-week Australian trial, across three sites and involving three million male mosquitoes, was undertaken in the towns of Mourilyan, South Johnstone and the Innisfail suburb of Goondi Bend, in north Queensland in 2018.

The male mosquitoes were released with a sterilised bacteria known as Wolbachia, aimed at preventing the production of offspring after mating with wild females.

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Early results indicated an average 80 per cent suppression across the trial sites, and a year later one area had shown almost full eradication of the mosquitoes.

The trial was an international collaboration between Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, the University of Queensland, Verily Life Sciences, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and James Cook University.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the research – published in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS on Tuesday – highlights how safe steps can be taken to reduce mosquito-borne diseases globally. 

“Over 40 per cent of humans suffer from mosquito-spread diseases, so it’s an opportunity for Australia to develop environmentally friendly mosquito control tools to tackle current and future mosquito incursions,” he said. 

“By working with Australian and international partners we can tackle two of Australia’s greatest challenges at once – health and security – with breakthrough research translated into effective global export solutions.

“CSIRO is leveraging great Australian science to create new technologies to make this approach more cost effective and suitable for the climates of less developed countries that suffer most from mosquito-borne viruses, strengthening and protecting our region.”

The suppression technique can also be used on other species such as the Asian tiger mosquito, found on Australia’s doorstep in the Torres Strait Islands. 

Mosquito suppression programs are also being trialled in French Polynesia and the Hunter region in NSW based on the findings of the north Queensland program.