In 2014, residents of Yogyakarta started growing and releasing mosquitoes. It’s counter-intuitive, but the mosquitoes carry Wolbachia bacteria, which reduces the risk of them spreading dengue fever.
Over a number of weeks, mosquitoes with Wolbachia breed with local mosquitoes and pass the bacteria on to their offspring until almost all mosquitoes in the area carry the disease-blocking microbes.
Dengue was first reported in Indonesia in 1968 and is now endemic in many cities and towns. In 2013, there were 112,000 cases and 871 deaths. Across the world hundreds of millions of people are affected each year, mostly in the tropics.
In Yogyakarta, researchers from Universitas Gadjah Mada are planning a large-scale trial to measure the effectiveness of Wolbachia as a public health intervention. It’s all part of the Eliminate Dengue Program, an international research collaboration that aims to reduce the impact of mosquito-borne disease. Ongoing field trials in Cairns and Townsville, Australia, are also showing positive results.
Professor Adi Utarini leads the Yogyakarta project and credits its success to the support and participation of local residents.
“Without community involvement and consent, it would have been impossible to achieve such positive results,” Adi says.
The Indonesian team is supported by the Tahija Foundation, and is working closely with colleagues from Monash University and other organisations in Australia and around the world.
Credit for banner image: Paulus Enggal, Eliminate Dengue Indonesia.