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Dengue: Modified mosquitoes reduce cases by 77% in Indonesia’s experiment

The modified mosquitoes thrived for three years, and cases of dengue were reduced by 77% in areas where they were introduced, the researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mosquitoes are infected with bacteria called Wolbachia, which not only interferes with the virus’ ability to live in the insect bodies, but also controls reproduction, so the mosquito only has Wolbachia-infected offspring. The result is a growing population of insects that do not transmit viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika.

The first U.S. release of genetically modified mosquitoes ever begins in the Florida Keys

The study involved more than 8,000 people, of whom approx. half lived in areas where the modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes had lived and bred.

Dengue fever was diagnosed in 9.4% of those living in areas with unmodified mosquitoes and 2.3% of people living in areas where the modified mosquitoes had been released. “The protective effect of the intervention was 77.1%,” the researchers wrote.

“There have been very few randomized trials of interventions against the dengue mosquito,” said Dr. Katie Anders of the World Mosquito Program, who helped sponsor the trial, in a statement.

“These trial results from Yogyakarta finally show that Wolbachia is working to reduce dengue incidence and dengue admissions,” she added.

Mosquitoes have also been tested in the Florida Keys and Australia.

As many as 400 million people become infected with dengue each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus, which has four strains, infects 100 million people a year and kills 22,000 a year.

“Indonesia has more than 7 million dengue cases each year,” said Adi Utarini of the University of Gadjah Mada, who worked on the study. “We believe there is a possible future where residents of Indonesian cities can live free of dengue.”

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