The results of the three-year study provide hope in the global fight against a disease that plagues millions annually.
Dengue fever infections dropped dramatically in an Indonesian study in which a bacterium was introduced into disease-carrying mosquitoes, giving hope in the fight against a disease that kills millions annually around the world.
The results of the three-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week showed that infection of dengue-bearing mosquitoes with a harmless bacterium called Wolbachia led to a 77 percent drop in human cases.
Infections that require hospitalization also fell by 86 percent in Wolbachia-treated areas of Yogyakarta, a city on the island of Java where the experiment was conducted, researchers say.
The study was conducted by the World Mosquito Program at Monash University in Australia and Indonesia̵
“The 77 percent figure is honestly quite amazing for a communicable disease, and we are very grateful for the result,” said Adi Utarini, a public health researcher at Gadjah Mada University who co-led the study.
The trial involved the release of Wolbachia in the mosquito population over certain parts of Yogyakarta to measure how it affected the incidence of infections in three- to 45-year-olds.
It has now been extended to other parts of the city.
Wolbachia suppresses the virus’ ability to replicate in dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and cause infections when they bite humans.
Previous trials involving Wolbachia – commonly found in fruit flies and other insects – also showed positive results in reducing dengue cases, researchers said.
Researchers hope the method could be a game changer in a global battle against the disease, which can sometimes be fatal.
Symptoms typically include body aches, fever and nausea.
“This is the result we’ve been waiting for,” said Scott World for Mosquito Program Director Scott O’Neill.
“We have evidence that our Wolbachia method is safe, sustainable and drastically reduces the incidence of dengue.
“It gives us great confidence in the positive impact that this method will have worldwide, when delivered to communities at risk of these mosquito-borne diseases,” he added.
Dengue is the fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world with more than 50 million cases globally each year, including approx. eight million in Indonesia.
Studies have also shown that the Wolbachia method can be effective in preventing the transmission of Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and other mosquito-borne diseases, researchers say.