July 28, 2020
World Mosquito Program celebrates 10 years protecting communities from dengue
The World Mosquito Program is celebrating 10 years of its pioneering Wolbachia method in reducing the incidence of dengue in North Queensland.
The Program, known in QLD as Eliminate Dengue, first released its life saving mosquitoes with Wolbachia in 2011. It first released in two suburbs or Cairns - Yorkeys Knob and Gordonvale.
WMP is now in 12 countries worldwide with over 5 million people covered by Wolbachia projects across Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
In a research paper published in 2019 on the impact of the Wolbachia method in the region, North Queensland was declared “essentially dengue free for the first time in 100 years”.
As part of the 10 year celebration, North Queensland residents have the opportunity to ‘Pay It Forward’ – sharing their good fortune by helping WMP expand their Wolbachia method to communities who still experience high incidence of dengue in other parts of the world.
World Mosquito Program Director, Professor Scott O’Neill said, “We are very indebted to the Queensland community for supporting us in the early days and allowing us to test our Wolbachia method. Without that support in the early days, the program would not be in 12 countries today. “ Wolbachia had worked in the laboratory and we needed to see if it could have a real world impact on people’s lives. The local community were bold and passionate in embracing our innovation. They own this 10 years of success as much as anyone. Today, Queenslanders enjoy living without the constant worry of dengue, especially in the rainy season.”
Members of the North Queensland community – who were critical to the success of the Wolbachia project – are sharing their thoughts on the project’s impact and their desire to support the growth of this work around the world:
Councillor Cathy Zeiger, Cairns
“Before Eliminate Dengue (now WMP) came, I used to sit with my legs up on a chair during the day. I was terrified of dengue. I now stand in the White Rock Swamp with lots of mosquitoes and feel safe.”
Allan Cullington, Yorkeys Knob resident for 67 years
“We still get mosquitoes but they are not those bad ones. There’s a confidence now in how we feel, We just don’t think of dengue anymore. Due to the efforts of people in Yorkeys Knob, there’s people in developing countries who aren’t subjected to dengue... I think that’s gold.”
Brett Whitbread, Rotarian, Townsville
“For me, the key success factor is that no-one’s talking about dengue in Townsville anymore, because it’s really not a thing here... It’s really cool to know that Townsville and Cairns – our area – were the pioneer areas for the Wolbachia method.”
Wolbachia projects continue across 7 sites in North Queensland through partnerships with Queensland Health and the local community.
Professor Scott O’Neill added, “It is incredible how far we’ve come in 10 years. We first showed our approach was safe and sustainable in North Queensland. We are now testing if we can release mosquitoes across entire cities in Asia and Latin America.”
“The challenge ahead is still immense. Despite being a thing of the past in North Queensland, dengue remains the world’s fastest growing tropical disease with 40% of the world’s population at risk. We want the people of Queensland and Australia “Pay It Forward” to dip into their pockets to help WMP take our life saving innovation to other communities in need. Our goal is to protect 100 million people in the next five years from devastating diseases such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and Mayaro and Australians can choose to play a direct part in that.
We want communities worldwide to be like North Queensland and not be thinking about dengue anymore.”
WMP, which hails from Monash University in Australia, is hoping many Australians will join in the Pay It Forward campaign and help bring the innovation to other communities.
Donations can be made online here:
Over the past 10 years in North Queensland:
- 5,000 households have helped with monitoring of Wolbachia mosquitoes;
- Over 100,000 separate monitoring collections were completed with the help of these households;
- 9,500 households have hosted a Wolbachia mosquito release container;
- Over 57,000 Wolbachia mosquito releases were completed by householders.
About the World Mosquito Program
Working to help protect the global community from mosquito-borne diseases, the World Mosquito Program, formerly the Eliminate Dengue Program, is a not-for-profit initiative led by Monash University, Australia. It uses a safe, natural, and effective method to reduce the threat of viruses such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. Through our collaborative and innovative approach, we are helping to protect local communities from these diseases in Australia, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands. Following many years of laboratory research and field trials with promising results, the World Mosquito Program is now operating in 12 countries around the world.
The WMP’s self-sustaining Wolbachia method:
The World Mosquito Program method works by introducing Wolbachia into Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the dengue, chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever viruses. These Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes are released in areas where mosquito-borne viruses are endemic. Once Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes are released, they breed with wild mosquitoes. Over time, the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without the need for further releases. WMP’s self-sustaining method offers a safe, effective, and long-term solution to reducing the burden of these diseases.
Dale Amtsberg, Senior Media Advisor
World Mosquito Program
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