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Fight against dengue mosquito starts today

Fight against dengue mosquito starts today
Melvin Kumar, a staff of World Mosquito Program (WMP) examines mosquito larvae under the microscope at Mataika House, Tamavua in Suva on July 13, 2018. Photo: Sheenam Chandra
July 16
13:53 2018

Efforts to eliminate the mosquito that spreads dengue, zika and chikungunya in the country will start today.

Co-ordinated by the World Mosquito Programme (WMP), in association with the Ministry of Health, the project will release its first batch of mosquitoes carrying the Wolbachia bacteria at Tamavua Village.

There is a long history of mosquito-borne diseases in the Pacific Islands. WMP said that in the last few years alone, there has been 30,000 suspected cases of dengue in the country, Vanuatu and Kiribati. In New Caledonia, more than 10,000 dengue cases were reported in just nine months.

Wolbachia is a naturally occurring bacteria found in 60 per cent of all insect species,” said Aminiasi Tavui, the project co-ordinator of WMP during a press conference on Friday at Mataika House, Tamavua.

The mosquitoes will be released along the Suva-Nausori corridor and Lami – the hotspots for Aedesaegypts mosquitoes – hence the release   of the Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes will balance the presence of dengue mosquitos and slowly outcompete them from the ecosystem.

Once Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes breed with local mosquitoes, they pass the bacteria to their offspring. Over time, these Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes help to block the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, according to WMP.

Mr Tavui said the Wolbachia bacteria was safe for humans, animals and the environment and it has no side effects because the bacteria is known as good bacteria, which is present in cockroaches, fruit flies and butterflies.

There were close to 26 varieties of mosquitoes, but the Aedes aegyptis – the primary species responsible for transmitting viruses like zika, dengue and chikungunya between people – was chosen to back-cross breed. “The back-crossing was done at the Monash University, Australia, which is the headquarters for WMP,” Mr Tavui said.

Programme project manager Geoff Wilson said the project, which will run through until December the country, was funded by the Australian Government. The project is currently on-going here, in Kiribati and Vanuatu.

The cost of the project is FJ$11.96 million (A$7.7 million) in total for the Pacific Islands.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: swashna.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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