Dengue fever: With bacteria against viruses

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Australian researchers have infected and exposed around 300,000 mosquitoes with the fruit fly bacterium Wolbachia. The bacteria are said to act actively against dengue viruses

Australian scientists have developed an unusual but apparently effective method to curb the spread of dengue fever. To fight the virus, researchers from the University of Melbourne infected mosquitoes with bacteria that are said to help fight the pathogen of dengue fever. The mosquitoes were already widely exposed after the first attempts in the laboratory were successful. As the scientists emphasized, there is no danger to humans.

Researchers in Australia have started a large-scale experiment. To do this, they infected Egyptian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti mosquitoes) - which are considered the main transmitters of dengue fever - with the bacterium of the genus Wolbachia. These bacteria are considered harmless to humans and are found in numerous insect species. If there is a mating between an uninfected female mosquito and an infected male mosquito, the larvae die. If both mosquitoes were infected, the descendants of the mosquitoes usually survive. The researchers hope that after a certain time the proportion of insects infected with Wolbachia bacteria will increase and that the causative agent of the dangerous fever disease will not be able to spread any further. Initial successes have been achieved, at least in the previous laboratory tests, as the research team led by Ary Hoffmann from the University of Melbourne report in the journal "Nature".

In a total period of ten weeks, the scientists will expose the mosquito infected in two North Australian municipalities. According to initial analyzes, the proportion of infected mosquitoes - in whose saliva there was no dengue virus - rose continuously in the first few weeks. After completing the study, the proportion of bacterial insects was over 80 percent and in some test areas even almost 100 percent. "We are very proud of this success," said Scott Ritchie of James Cook University.

The researchers have already been highly praised by experts. Jason Rasgon of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute in Baltimore wrote in an accompanying article on the results of the study that a "new era in the control of mosquito-borne diseases" has now begun. The first milestone has now been reached. Subsequent studies now needed to check whether the number of dengue patients in the test areas actually decreased significantly. So far, doctors and researchers have not been able to develop an effective strategy to stop the spread of the disease. More than 100 million people fall ill each year, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. Infectious disease kills more than 40,000 patients annually. A rapid increase in new infections has also been registered in Europe and Germany in recent years. Researchers are responsible for the steadily progressing climate change.

The viral infectious disease is the most common and fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world. According to evaluations by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 50 to 100 million people worldwide are infected every year. With around half a million people infected, dengue fever takes a serious course. Children and immunocompromised patients in particular are in acute danger of a fatal outcome. While the number of cases in the subtropical regions skyrocketed astronomically, 290 people in Germany contracted the fever in 2010. However, all German patients had brought in the illness from vacation. In addition to flu-like symptoms, internal bleeding and, if severe, the life-threatening "Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever" can occur. (sb)

Also read:
Climate change: dengue fever reaches Europe
Dengue fever is on the rise worldwide

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