Monash researchers lead an international effort to reduce the global burden of dengue
Dengue is recognised as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world - and the most rapidly spreading. The Eliminate Dengue research program is developing a natural method using commonly found bacteria to stop the mosquito from being able to transmit the virus.
The research program is a not-for-profit international collaboration led by Professor Scott O'Neill, Dean of Science at Monash University. Through initial trials the research team has shown the Wolbachia method of dengue control is feasible. Project partners in Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia are currently conducting local trials of the method.
Eliminate Dengue has demonstrated that they can transfer Wolbachia, bacteria found in 60% of all insect species, into Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and in doing this also demonstrated that when Wolbachia is present in the mosquito it reduces their ability to transmit the dengue virus.
Dengue fever is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world - and the most rapidly spreading - with a 30-fold increase in global incidence over the past 50 years.
Today over 2.5 billion people, more than 35% of the world's population, in over 100 countries are at risk of infection from dengue. "The Wolbachia method could stop the spread of dengue fever at a relatively low cost," Professor O'Neill said. "Current control methods, largely based around insecticide use, are failing to stop the increasing dengue problem."
The research program is primarily funded by The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Other major funders include the Tahija Foundation in Indonesia and the Australian and Queensland governments.
"A pretty amazing piece of research."
- Bill Gates, National Press Club address
"There is great promise that if we back innovators like this [pointing to Professor O'Neill] then we can improve global health in a very dramatic way. [...] We believe this idea will work for dengue; we believe that it also can be adapted to the slightly different type of mosquitoes, the Anopheles that transmits malaria. And so although there's risk in this type of work - you have to be patient (we initially funded this now over eight years ago) - there's great promise that if we back innovators like this, we can improve global health in a very dramatic way. Now, just one example of Australia's excellent record in global health and agriculture research and development." (Bill Gates, National Press Club address, 29 May 2013.)
In 2013 the Australian Museum awarded the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Diseases Research to Professor O'Neill and his colleagues. "This work is a potential game-changer in the battle against dengue and other insect-borne diseases," Frank Howarth, the museum's Director said.
Further information can be found at: www.eliminatedengue.com