New strategies are being developed as a method of reducing mosquito-borne disease. India is seizing this newly researched technology as a means of reducing dengue fever as well as potentially other viral diseases spread via Aedes aegypti.
The research can be broken down into two sections: detection and prevention.
In order to adequately combat mosquito-borne disease, efforts must be made to establish areas with a high density of mosquitoes. To this end, Andhra Pradesh state government has sent proposals to the Ministry of Urban Development suggesting the use of optical sensors intended to track the density, gender and species of mosquito in the area.
These optical sensors would be installed on electricity poles. The intention is that the sensors would be installed across 185 square kilometres in three cities across Andhra Pradesh. The estimated cost of the installation of sensors for the project is Rs four crore (40 million, $600,000 USD).
The project would allow for a huge amount of data to be gained on the breeding habitats of the mosquitos, allowing for targeted eradication. Alongside this knowledge of the species of mosquito in an area allows for prediction of disease prevalence among the population due to specific diseases being spread by certain species.
“The measures to check their breeding at exact location and that too with the right sprays for a particular species will help save wastage of resources. Real time data will help the local governments to be pro-active on tracking spread of vector borne diseases,” says K Kanna Babu, director of municipal administration of Andhra Pradesh government
Promising research has been emerging regarding the Wolbachia bacteria. The bacteria, when present in the Aedes aegypti mosquito (responsible for transmission of dengue fever virus) prevents the spread of the virus to human hosts. The bacteria is naturally present in many species of insect, and is safe if present in humans.
Wolbachia provides an odd opportunity in that it is maternally transmitted, yet increases the relative fitness of infected females and so increases breeding rates, further spreading the bacteria. The implication of this is that a single local release of infected mosquitoes can spread the disease inhibiting effects to a much larger number of mosquitoes across a far broader area. This makes the intervention strategy very light on resources once initially developed, as well as a safe and more environmentally friendly method eliminating the need for insecticides.
Scientists at Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC), Puducherry, Tamil Nadu will soon test the wolbachia bacteria in mosquito hosts. The mosquito eggs were infected with the bacteria in Monash University in Australia before being transferred to India.
“We have tried traditional vector control measures such as fogging, mosquito nets, spraying insecticide and clearing larvae from breeding sources…But they have largely been ineffective. We have not been able to bring down dengue. It’s time we look for biocontrol mechanisms.” ICMR director Dr Soumya Swaminathan says.
Both strategies would work well in unison. Each could provide a much needed helping hand to the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. Though the target in the case of the wolbachia bacteria is the dengue virus, the principle of suppression of other microorganisms remains the same. As such this could provide a valuable strategy for use against other diseases.