Wolbachia mosquitoes may halt dengue fever
Researchers have successfully infected a mosquito population with a bug that makes them unable to transmit dengue fever to humans. The bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis, is known naturally to infect many insect species, and is able to interfere with its host's reproduction so that entire populations are infected within just a few generations.
A few years ago, researchers at Monash University, Australia, were able to block dengue infection completely in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by infecting them with a Wolbachia strain isolated from fruit flies, says an article in ScienceNOW. But the infection halved the mosquitoes' lifespan, potentially hampering their ability to outcompete wild, uninfected counterparts.
Now, Australian and US researchers have found that a milder strain of Wolbachia — which does not affect the mosquitoes' lifespan — is still highly effective in preventing dengue transmission by the mosquitoes. When they tested the Wolbachia strain in caged mosquitoes, all of them quickly became infected with it.