Wolbachia, a bacteria commonly found in insects, prevents the dengue virus from being able to replicate.

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Health Dengue Fever Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 17:00

Dengue fever has been plaguing the world. This disease is caused by one of several strains of the dengue virus, which are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, officials from the Sri Lankan government will be introducing bacteria-carrying mosquitos which will be helping prevent the transmission of the virus.

On Thursday, a health official from the country stated that the government was ready to begin trialling special bacteria as part of a programme to eradicate the dengue virus. Deputy Director General of the Health Ministry Paba Palihawadana said that a type of bacteria called "Wolbachia" will be released in 25 local townships in Colombo starting February 2020, reports Xinhua news agency.

Wolbachia is a type of bacteria which has been shown to be useful in the fight against dengue. According to the World Mosquito Program, a global not-for-profit organisation, Wolbachia is a common bacterium that is found naturally in 60% of insect species, including some mosquitoes. These bacteria are considered safe for humans and the environment – they live inside insect cells and are passed on to the next generation of the insect through its eggs.

It has been found that when Wolbachia is present in the Aedes aegypti mosquito, they compete with the viruses that cause dengue, zika, and chikungunya. This subsequently makes it more difficult for the harmful viruses to multiply inside the mosquitoes.  When the viruses cannot replicate, they cannot be transmitted and the disease is not spent.

Therefore, Wolbachia reduce the ability of mosquitoes to transmit viruses between people, thereby preventing the occurrence of dengue itself. Other mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika and chikungunya also can be affected thereby Wolbachia aids in the transmission of these viruses as well.

The World Mosquito Program facilitates breeding Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes.

Households in Sri Lanka will be provided with mosquito eggs and a food capsule which must be sealed in water for two weeks, after which the mature mosquitoes will be released into the environment to spread the bacteria.

Wolbachia has reportedly been successfully used in 12 countries including India. In India, the World Mosquito Program is working with the Indian Council of Medical Research to use the bacterium to combat dengue and other diseases carried by mosquitoes.  

According to reports, one state hospital in each of Sri Lanka’s districts will be developed to better handle better services to people regarding dengue as well. As part of this, the Health Services Director General Dr Anil Jasinghe had said that a Full Blood Report will be provided in 20 minutes in all major state hospitals, thus strengthening dengue diagnosis, as well as treatment for the same.

In an outbreak of dengue in 2017, over 186,000 cases and over 320 deaths were reported. The government took immediate intervention to eradicate breeding grounds and to educate citizens about the importance of preventive measures.

Introducing these bacteria to control mosquito-borne diseases was first done in Australia where no transmissions have been recorded in eight years.

(With IANS inputs)