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Virus versus virus: Technique for making dengue mosquitos harmless

June 18, 2013 10:49pm
Fight the dengue virus with another virus, that's what scientists are proposing as a fresh strategy for attacking one of the country's leading killers. But it is still years away from implementation.

However, the Department of Health has indicated that it is open to field testing the technique of "bugging"
dengue mosquitoes with the Wolbachia virus.
 
One of the technique's main developers, Dr. Scott O'Neill of Australia, has pointed out that at the moment, “there is no plan to conduct [the program] in the Philippines” because his team still does not know how the program will work in the country.
 
O'Neill clarified that the program “is still not a proven intervention at the moment” as three more years of research are needed before widespread implementation can even be considered.
 
O'Neill's team discovered that injecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia virus prevents the insect from passing on the deadly virus to their offspring.
 
The scientist from Australia's Monash University told members of the Philippine government and academe last week that “bugging” mosquitoes with the Wolbachia virus will not only shorten their lives, but will also block them from reproducing. 
 
A “bugged” male mosquito will make its female partner sterile while a “bugged” female mosquito born with Wolbachia will pass on the bacteria to its offspring when it mates. 
 
Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag explained in a report on GMA News TV on Tuesday that humans are infected with the dengue virus when a dengue-carrying mosquito bites them.
 
“Accidentally pag nakagat nila tayo, naisasalin nila yung virus. Sa Wolbachia, parang bakunado na sila sa dengue virus. So papaano pa sila makakapag-transmit ng virus?” Tayag said.
 
Although the virus affects the reproductive capabilities of mosquitoes, O’Neill said that it has “very negligible risk of any adverse effects” to humans. People, he said, are exposed to the bacteria “all the time” because it is naturally present among 70 percent of insect species.
 
Tayag, meanwhile, explained that mosquitoes cannot transmit the Wolbachia virus to humans because it is too large to pass through the insect’s salivary ducts into its mouth.”Infect mo lang ang iilan, pakawalan mo, magme-mate sila dun sa ibang lamok na di pa infected ng Wolbachia. Tapos pag nag-lay na sila ng eggs, nandoon na (sa offspring nila) yung Wolbachia,” he said.
 
Right now, the DOH is counting on its partnerships with the Departments of Interior & Local Government (DILG), Science and Technology (DOST), and Education (DepEd) to bring down the number of dengue cases in the country, which has reached 42,207 from January to the first week of June 2013. 193 dengue patients have died during that period. (DOH: 42,207 dengue cases, 193 deaths from January to 1st week of June.)
 
Meanwhile, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy of the DOH’s Dengue Control and Prevention Program has expressed alarm at the rise in the number of dengue cases in the country, which he said is the highest in Asia.
 
Speaking at the ASEAN Dengue Forum in Albay, Dr. Lee Suy said that Filipinos’ “ningas cogon” attitude and weak participation in various campaigns against dengue are causing the spike in the number of people infected with the virus.
 
The DOH relaunched earlier this year the “4 o’clock habit,” which includes the "Stop, Look and Listen" system of activities geared toward eliminating mosquitoes and their breeding grounds in homes and communities.  — Xianne Arcangel/ELR/HS, GMA News



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