Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wolbachia Bacteria Used to Prevent Spread of Zika and Dengue

As the number of patients infected with Zika and Dengue continue to rise, more nations are seeking methods of controlling the main vector of transmission: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Both Dengue and Zika require the virus to reside within the mosquito for a long period of time before being successfully transmitted to humans. The Wolbachia bacteria was seen to shorten the length of the Aedes aegypti lifespan by half and, therefore, reduce the probability of transmission. Specific countries that are taking active measures to introduce the Wolbachia bacteria are Columbia and Brazil, two nations that have been most significantly impacted by the Zika outbreak. The introduction of the Wolbachia virus is only one component of a larger mosquito campaign. With the World Health Organization's declaration of Zika as a global health emergency, the United States, Great Britain, the Wellcome Trust, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered to provide approximately $18 million to control the mosquito population in an attempt to control the spread of these viruses. Priti Patel, secretary of Britain International Development, supports the use of Wolbachia as a more cost-effective measure for controlling Zika and Dengue outbreaks, especially for developing countries.

Benefits for the introduction of Wolbachia include the natural sustenance of the bacteria because mosquitoes are able to transfer Wolbachia to their offspring. Wolbachia is also a naturally occurring bacteria in the Aedes aegypti population. Previous studies have been conducted regarding the impacts of Wolbachia in five different nations for approximately five years, and the virus has been seen to halt the transmission of the viruses.

The use of Wolbachia demonstrates how multiple components including economics, health policy, and research have combined forces to prevent further transmission of two infectious diseases.

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~Michelle Bach (Humans and Viruses 2016-2017)

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