Mosquitoes help to spread a large number of diseases which a responsible for the sickness and death of millions of people around the world each year, and a variety of efforts are underway to combat this. Publishing in the journal PLOS Pathogens a group of scientists have investigated the effectiveness of infecting Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit dengue and Zika, with bacteria to reduce their capability of carrying disease.
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Prof. Michael Bonsall, Professor of Mathematical Biology, University of Oxford, said:
“Wolbachia is a naturally-occurring bacteria that is widely spread in insects but not naturally in Aedes aegpyti, the mosquito that spreads Dengue, Zika and other flaviviruses. Previous work has established that infecting mosquitoes with this bacteria can affect how long mosquitoes live. This is important because if we can reduce adult mosquito survival before they have reached the active biting stage then this has the potential to reduce disease spread.
“In this paper the authors report on a set of studies infecting Aedes mosquitoes with two different Wolbachia – they show two very neat results: first, that in combination these Wolbachia bacteria act in combination to shorten adult mosquito survival. Second, they show that these doubly Wolbachia infected mosquitoes were less likely to carry some strains (but not all) of Dengue virus.
“This is significant and interesting as it suggests that this Wolbachia bacteria interacts with the mosquito immune system to make it (partially) resistant to flavivirus infections. More work is obviously needed to expand this to other flaviviruses such as Zika.”
‘Establishment of a Wolbachia superinfection in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes as a potential approach for future resistance management’ by D. Albert Joubert et al. will be PLOS Pathogens on Thursday 18 February 2016.
Prof. Michael Bonsall: “I was the Specialist Adviser to the inquiry on Genetically Modified Insects by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, and am a member of ACRE (Defra’s committee on releases into the environment). The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment is independent scientific committee that through EU derivatives and national UK legislation is mandated to provide the UK government/ministers with advice on the environmental risks (to wider receiving environments/human health) of non-native and GM releases. I have been a member of this committee since December 2007. I have carried out occasional consultancy work for WHO, NIH, and EFSA, including work on GM-based control methods for mosquitoes. I have received research funding from BBSRC (including working with Oxitec on GM insects), Oxford Martin School, NERC, the Royal Statistical Society, and the Royal Entomological Society. For full details of all my interests, please see: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/science-technology/GMInsects/michael-bonsall-specialist-adviser-interests.pdf”