New dengue treatment hope6th January 2009
Researchers suggest people could be protected from contracting dengue fever through a parasite which makes mosquitoes live shorter lives.
Australian scientists working on the problem found that the Wolbachia bacteria spread efficiently through a population of mosquitoes bred in a labratory.
This could mean that the disease will experience a cutback, since only older mosquitoes transmit dengue. However, the ability of the bacteria to spread outside the laboratory is not known.
Dengue fever is contracted primarily in warm tropical areas. While there have been efforts to eradicate mosquitoes carrying the painful disease using insecticides, these have been fraught with problems.
Usually, the mosquito has the ability to adapt to the chemicals. People contract the virus when mosquitoes carrying it go for their blood.
The latest study offers hope that Wolbachia is a feasible way of limiting groups of mosquitoes.
The researchers from the University of Queensland chose a type of Wolbachia shown to cut the lifespan of mosquitoes in half.
The researchers bred the mosquitoes for susceptibility to Wolbachia.
This needed to be done to create a successful infection of the bacteria, because the mosquito which infects people with dengue is not naturally susceptible to Wolbachia.
The bacteria can be transmitted from an infected female to offspring.
In addition, it changes the infected males so that they can only produce offspring with infected females.
The infection spread quickly in the laboratory population of mosquitoes, and the infected mosquitoes only lived a few weeks on average.
This change in lifespan might be important for the control of dengue fever, since there is a period of incubation for the virus within the mosquito itself.
The mosquito carries the virus from a week to three weeks before it can transmit the infection to humans.
This means that only the oldest mosquitoes are likely to be dangerous to humans.
The researchers suggested that the bacteria was probably an inexpensive solution to the problem of dengue fever, especially around large city centers.
Andrew Read and Matthew Thomas of Pennsylvania State University said there were still obstacles to success, though substantial reductions in the occurrence of dengue might happen.
The challenge will be finding out whether the bacteria can kill sufficient numbers of mosquitoes to limit the spread of the virus. They said there was also a chance that the incubating virus would adapt to a shorter lifespan.
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Title: New dengue treatment hope
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 9709
Date Added: 6th Jan 2009