Mosquitoes treated with a special bacteria have been released into Medellin to stop the spread of dengue fever, local media reported Thursday.
The release of mosquitoes is part of a global research project to fight the disease, which has already infected nearly 40,000 Colombians this year, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Bacteria-treated mosquitoes “prevent the dengue virus developing in your body and therefore cannot transmit it to people,” said a representative from the University of Antioquia, the research organization responsible for releasing the mosquitoes.
The effort is global and being lead by the Program for Control and Study of Tropical Diseases (PECET), at the University of Antioquia, in conjunction with Monash University in Australia.
The bacteria, call Wolbachia, infects about 70 percent of all insects and is being used to kill Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which account for most dengue fever transmissions. Besides reducing the mosquito’s lifespan, the bacterium also makes it immune to the virus, thereby preventing the spread of the disease, according to PECET.
Wolbachia, which is known to be harmless to humans, has proven to be a very effective tool for controlling dengue fever, an infectious disease that continues to lack effective prevention and treatment.
Global incidents of Dengue fever have grown dramatically in recent decades, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Half of the world’s population is now at risk.
Dengue is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito infected with one of the four dengue virus serotypes.
It is an illness that affects infants, young children and adults with symptoms appearing 3-14 days after the infective bite.
Dengue is not transmitted directly from person-to-person and symptoms range from mild fever, to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash.
There is no vaccine or any specific medicine to treat dengue. People who have dengue fever should rest, drink plenty of fluids and reduce the fever using paracetamol or see a doctor.
Severe dengue (also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever) is characterized by fever, abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, bleeding and breathing difficulty and is a potentially lethal complication, affecting mainly children.
Early clinical diagnosis and careful clinical management by trained physicians and nurses can lower the fatality rate to less than 1%.