Sterile Mosquitoes Released to Tackle Dengue in Guangzhou, China

Published Date : May 25, 2015

Chinese scientists have released more than half a million mosquitoes on a Guangzhou island in southern China from plastic ports on a truck, this spring. The scientist’s activity was welcomed by residents on the island and some even requested for the mosquitoes to be freed in their homes!

The scientists are a part of an inventive move to tackle dengue fever through releasing sterile mosquitoes to diminish and alter the disease carrying mosquito population. Last year China had seen the nastiest outbreak of dengue with 47,000 cases, the mosquito borne sickness also familiarly known as “breakbone disease” in the Guandong region. 

If you get infected once, you can get immunity from the disease but if you get bitten by a mosquito carrying another type of dengue virus, there is possibility of suffering from hemorrhagic fever as a result of severe dengue. This type of dengue is fatal with no known cure or available vaccines and has been the cause for 22,000 deaths annually and a majority of these have been young children. 

The deadly dengue epidemic has affected about 100 countries compared to only 9 countries before 1970. There are estimates that two-fifths of the global population could be at risk of dengue especially Latin America, Asia and Africa regions. The dreaded disease has even reached Europe and the United States, over the past few years.

The deputy director for disease control Yang Zhicong and his colleagues have set free mosquitoes carrying wolbachia bacteria which can reduce the insect’s ability for dengue as the male mosquitoes become sterile.

The World Health Organization’s official Dr Raman Velayudhan, from the department of control for neglected tropical diseases is of the opinion that dengue has been disregarded by governments and not given enough attention. Another official and professor from the Dengue Tools and Lee Kong School of Medicine Annelies Wilder-Smith,  feels that 100 million cases annually is a huge burden for healthcare systems and economically. Velayudhan feels that increasing urbanization rates by 2030 will result in increase the disease affected population.