Zika Virus News & Updates: Releasing Mosquitoes Infected With Wolbachia Could Slow Spread Of Disease

By Daniel Joseph, Parent Herald May 05, 07:44 am

The Zika virus outbreak that started in Latin American countries is still raging on today and is already spreading to other countries. The solution to gradually slow down the spread of Zika virus might lie in a bacterium called Wolbachia.

Researchers believe that releasing mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia into the wild could help slow down the spread of Zika virus. "We are pretty sure that mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia will have a great impact on Zika transmission in the field," Luciano A. Moreira, a biologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, told the New York Times.

It turns out that mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia are protected from the Zika virus, which will prevent the insects from transmitting the virus. For this reason, a large-scale release of mosquitoes with Wolbachia in Yogyakarta, Indonesia will be conducted as a trial.

"This is to get the gold-standard evidence," experiment leader Scott L. O'Neill said to the New York Times. "We're thinking that there will be a very big effect."

However, previous preliminary experiments conducted were only able to observe the protection given by Wolbachia for only two weeks. Entomologist Jason L. Rasgon told the New York Times that it would be better if researchers find out if the Wolbachia bacterium can protect mosquitoes from Zika for more than a couple of weeks. "Nobody has had the time to go in and do the rigorous work," Dr. Rasgon said.

Health agencies and organizations are working together to find a solution to the Zika virus outbreak. Aside from symptoms such as fever, rash and joint pain, Zika virus can also cause microcephaly in babies of pregnant women bitten by infected mosquitoes, CDC reports.

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