This news just in from the Eliminate Dengue project in Australia (NPR story and audio). As Ive tweeted and blogged about many times, Scott O'Neill's lab has been leading a Gates Foundation funded effort to introduce Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into Australian suburbs in the fight to replace uninfected mosquitoes that are competent to transmit dengue virus with Wolbachia-infected ones that are incompetent to harbor and transmit dengue virus. The science has been remarkably fruitful and the project's success appears to be positioning the program to do releases in other countries, such as Thailand and Brazil. Here we get an update letter from the Team. The key updates are:
- Wolbachia inhibits growth of Dengue virus in mosquitoes.
- Release 1: Of the massive releases of wMel Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes performed 16 months ago, a whopping 97% of mosquitoes harbor Wolbachia. That's staying power!
- Release 2: A second trial is ongoing to test if wMelPop Wolbachia can do the same as wMel. The difference between the two strains is that while wMelPop has stronger inhibition of Dengue virus growth in mosquitoes, it can not invade mosquito populations as efficiently as wMel.
- Release 3: Mysterious - they are currently working with a 3rd strain that combines the best of wMel and wMelPop. I have not heard about this yet in the literature but it is tantalizing.
- If you live in Australia, the Project needs you. Home owners in Edge Hill, Cairns North, Whitfield, Parramatta Park, Manunda, Westcourt, and Stratford, Australia should contact 1-800-811-054.